Stellenbosch University has implemented a high-performance computing cluster
from Sun Microsystems.
Sun Microsystems South Africa partner, Breakpoint Solutions, has provided
the University of Stellenbosch with a powerful high-performance computing
(HPC) cluster to be used by various departments within the university for
The mechanics division head within the department of mechanical and
mechatronic engineering, professor Gerhard Venter, who led the project on
behalf of the university, said that the solution allows the university to
consolidate its high performance computing needs.
"The university had no shared resource for this before," says Venter.
"Instead, various departments ran their own box-clusters that typically have
less than 20 cores. These are used to crunch numbers in research in fields
such as chemistry and physics."
The time taken to conduct such research is largely dependant on the speed at
which calculations can be conducted. Venter says that the more capacity is
assigned to computing from a number of processing cores, the quicker and
more effectively research can be conducted. The university simply required
more super-computing power in order to meet its needs.
"Sun was selected because it offered the best value for money and the
feedback we received from Sun was miles ahead of other vendors we spoke to,"
says Venter. "Sun's approach and support is excellent and they are also
providing us with training on the system."
Breakpoint Solutions supplied the university with a high performance cluster
consisting of Sun Fire X4150 each have two Intel Quad Core CPU's and 16
gigabytes of RAM, a Sun StorageTek 2530 array that provides six terabytes of
storage, an Extreme Networks Summit 1GBE switch, Open SuSE Linux operating
system and Sun Grid Engine job scheduler. Breakpoint Solutions was also
responsible for the installation and configuration of the cluster, and also
assisted the university with the installation of their applications.
"There are 168 cores in total," says Venter. "And in testing we have been
using between 80 and 120 cores at any given time and without any problems."
He says that several departments within the university have already begun
testing the solution in their research projects.
"Sun South Africa and our EMEA Education and Health Research colleagues saw
this as a strategic initiative in one of our key systems focus area and
invested in this solution by providing financial, training and specialised
skills benefits," says Claire Alexander, Sun's regional marketing manager
for Sub Saharan Africa.
"Mechanical and mechatronic engineering, electrical and electronic
engineering, computer science, bio-chemistry, physics and applied
mathematics are just some of the departments that will be loading the system
with work once the testing phase is done," says Venter.
"We look forward to reporting vast time savings and an effective shared HPC
resource for the university's research undertakings once the system has been
in full production use," he concludes.