Tech & Emory partnership planned for HPC cluster

Earlier last month, the Partnership for an Advanced Computing Environment (PACE) announced a new partnership with Emory University to supply its neighbor in Decatur with a new high performance computing (HPC) cluster.

The computing cluster is named TARDIS, which is also the name of the time machine from the British science fiction series Doctor Who, and is composed of 12 nodes, or computers, with a total of 768 processing cores. An average desktop computer has four cores.

“TARDIS is a brand new thing [and]… it recently just went into full production mode,” said Chief HPC Architect Neil Bright.

Emory began this partnership with Tech in order to replace their old cluster, Ellipse, in the most efficient way possible.

“Their old cluster was old…big… inefficient,” Bright said. “It was time to get it replaced and upgraded. Emory did a business case and figured out how much it would cost them to do it, ramp up their personnel and based on that decided to outsource that particular ability.”

“On the new server, we can now process 20 exomes per hour, a 60-fold increase in speed,” said Michael Zwick, PhD, associate professor of human genetics and scientific director of the Emory Integrated Genomics Core, in a news release by Emory University. “This is a dramatic improvement and will allow members of the Emory community to perform larger experiments faster and for less money. We will be a significant user of the new cluster and our computational services will be taking advantage of this exciting new capability.”

Part of the $500,000 grant that Emory received for this cluster is being given to PACE, which will help to facilitate the setup and maintenance of TARDIS. However, the cluster, which is dedicated to Emory, will only be reserved for use by Emory personnel only. According to Bright, there is no way for Tech faculty to gain access to this resource.

Traditionally, PACE has been a partnership between the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Tech faculty where the former assist in the setup and management of high performance computing investments made by the latter. However, according to Bright, this is an avenue in which the department is investigating.

“This is something we are interested in expanding with other universities,” Bright said. “Obviously, the Board of Regent schools would be targets here. By doing that, you gain economies of scale and the ability to attract larger grants and have a greater economic impact.”

Physical distance is not a restriction in being able to remotely work with these machines.

“Think Gmail,” Bright said. “You can check it from wherever you are – it doesn’t matter if it’s located in Europe.”

Bright also referenced the new HPC building and its potential for this expansion.

“The bigger picture here is the HPC building we’re going to move into,” Bright said. “Some very large data center space, office space, and operating as public and private partnership may help bring in companies as part of an economic development mission. Various partners from industry could also benefit from HPC.”