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High-Performance Computing Sites Unite to Form the Dell XL HPC Consortium

Published on April 16, 2007 by Faith Singer-Villalobos

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) and the Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC) last week hosted the inaugural meeting of the Dell XL HPC Consortium (Dell XL), the first user group of its kind to focus on the large-scale use of Dell HPC solutions. The meeting took place on April 10 and 11 in TACC's new building in Austin.

The consortium will combine the expertise of its members to share information on how to most effectively operate, support and use large-scale high-performance computing (HPC) systems, including the integration of commodity market HPC systems and products.

"The potential of HPC across scientific disciplines and in business is tremendous, but there are challenges in doing HPC at very large scales using commodity technologies and we need to share experiences and expertise," said Kent Milfeld, manager of TACC's Performance Evaluation and Optimization group. "TACC and MHPCC realized that Dell HPC sites of varying sizes and complexities could benefit from a cooperative and democratic organization."

Through their collective efforts, the members of Dell XL aim to accelerate the adoption of HPC and its impact on science and society. The self-maintained, self-supporting group includes HPC sites that have large installations of Dell systems and will focus on parallel cluster opportunities in the areas of software stacks, file systems, networking, interconnects, processor technology, resource management and monitoring, systems administration, and training and support.

"It is our goal to create a win-win partnership among the member sites and with Dell," said Mike McCraney, director of operations at MHPCC.

"The cornerstone idea is to establish a forum in which sites collaborate to solve pressing issues, identify novel solutions and configurations, and improve overall performance and manageability for systems with thousands of cores. In doing so, we can provide valuable feedback to Dell on future direction and desired features in the Dell HPC line of products."

The consortium provides a forum for the following activities:

  • Member centers can offer suggestions and alternatives on Dell product configurations, software tools and support.
  • Member centers can collaborate and share experiences, as well as discuss center-derived solutions and alternative approaches to Dell configurations and peripheral combinations.
  • Dell can present roadmaps and alternative courses, and receive valuable feedback from its largest HPC customer base.
  • Invited vendors can discuss HPC solutions jointly with consortium members and Dell.

Reza Rooholamini, director of global solutions engineering at Dell, said in the past researchers had to invest in expensive, cumbersome proprietary hardware and software that had substantial impact on an organization's research budget, diverting funds away from the research itself.

"Dell high-performance computing cluster technology gives organizations the computing power they need to embark on successful research projects, while providing long-term scalability and full-time reliability at a fraction of the cost," Rooholamini said.

"The opportunity to have an open dialogue with our valued HPC partners, to truly understand how we can create the most impact through technology innovation and standards-based solutions, is invaluable. We look forward to interacting with the consortium to determine innovative ways Dell technology can enable HPC users to conduct research that could have a positive impact on society."

The founding members of the Dell XL HPC Consortium are British Petroleum, California Institute of Technology, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Sandia National Laboratories, University of North Carolina/Renaissance Computing Institute, Brigham Young University, Maui High Performance Computing Center and Texas Advanced Computing Center. The bi-annual (spring/fall) meetings are open to consortium members and invited vendors and speakers.

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Faith Singer-Villalobos

Communications Manager | 512-232-5771

Aaron Dubrow

Science And Technology Writer

Jorge Salazar

Technical Writer/Editor | 512-475-9411