Intersect to decommission NSW supercomputer

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Intersect to decommission NSW supercomputer

University-owned McLaren likely headed for recycling.

The University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) four-year-old SGI Altix 4700 supercomputer has reached its end of life, with operators deeming the 23-kilowatt machine “not economical to run”.

The supercomputer, dubbed McLaren, was managed by university consortium Intersect. It was commissioned in 2008 for $1 million and housed at the Global Switch data centre in Sydney.

Designed for data-intensive calculations like genetic sequencing, McLaren was a large-scale, shared memory, SUSE Linux  system with 128 dual-core CPUs, 1 TB RAM and 12 TB disk space.

Intersect CEO Ian Gibson described it as a “very power-intensive machine” that generated power bills of “several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year”.

“It’s still a very capable machine,” he told iTnews, explaining that McLaren would continue to function until a replacement was commissioned and deployed within the calendar year.

“The problem is that it costs a lot to run. Power and air-conditioning costs are very high.”

McLaren would be decommissioned and recycled in accordance with UTS policy.

Its replacement was to be owned by another Intersect member, the University of Sydney, and any tenders would be issued accordingly.

“We want to replace it with something equivalent,” Gibson said, noting that advances in technology should yield a successor capable of handling additional demand.

“Currently, computing time is over-subscribed and there is demand for additional capacity. State of the art is now eight times [McLaren’s] capacity.”

Last month, the CSIRO issued a separate request for tender to double the capacity of its shared-memory SGI Altix 4700 system, ‘cherax’.

Intersect had not yet decided on the technology that would replace McLaren.

Gibson said that GPU-CPU hybrids would be considered, keeping in mind that McLaren project calculations tended to be sequential and difficult to parallelise.

“There are a couple of factors in making this decision,” he said. “We’re seeing very dramatic speed-ups in [GPU supercomputing] software, but existing [McLaren] code still needs to be supported.

“We really need to sit down and look at our user base. We have a couple of hundred users.”

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