UNB departments power research with Sun grid

The University of New Brunswick will offer its recently installed $1.3 million supercomputing facility as a shared IT resource powering projects in disciplines ranging from mechanical engineering to humanities.

Consisting of a 164-processor

cluster and 2,800 GB storage array running Sun’s Grid Engine software for the Red Hat Linux platform, the system will be managed as part of the Advanced Computational Research Laboratory (ACRL) in UNB’s faculty of computer science and housed in the Integrated Technology Services department.

Virendra Bhavsar, director of the ACRL and dean of computer science at UNB, said the university got funding for the system through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. UNB needed the extra computing power to launch a local node of Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPOR), a $6.78-million joint CFI initiative involving McMaster University, the University of Victoria and several other schools.

“”The requirements for TAPOR was that we would archive and store large amounts of text — and by text, actually, they mean also video and images,”” he said. “”They were looking for 1TB (of storage overall).””

Bhavsar said TAPOR will look for patterns of language use to prepare dictionaries, to compare the genus of works and the styles of authors. Another UNB project, HPC (high performance computing) for Industrial Applications, will see the department of mechanical engineering at UNB use the cluster to perform experiments in areas such as marine hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, fluid structure interaction, materials processing, and computational fluid dynamics.

Lynne Zucker, director of education and research (Canada) with Sun Microsystems, said UNB is a good example of Canadian post-secondary institutions using grid software to allocate their resources more strategically.

“”The research institutions are finding they can start with what they got funding for, and Sun is able to amplify what their funding is able to give them,”” she said. “”Because these are cross-disciplinary, shared resources on the campus, other researchers who have a small amount of money are able to now contribute and add to the central computing resource, instead of building their own.””

Some of the other projects include a poetry database which will be collecting verse from across Canada, Bhavsar said.

“”The idea is that these two projects will get the highest priority for using the machine, and then when they’re not in use, we’ll make it available to others,”” he said. “”As long as we have our priorities set properly, there’s no reason others shouldn’t have access to the resources they need.””

Others may follow UNB’s lead, Zucker said.

“”What really differentiates this is that the projects are so cross-disciplinary, whereas often you find the very technical field being the big users of the grid,”” she said. “”That talks to how computing will impact research going forward.””

Bhavsar said the ACRL would employ two or three people with graduate-level education in parallel computing to help run the supercomputer.

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