University Of Florida Saves Cash And Time With Dual-Core Systems - InformationWeek

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12/12/2005
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University Of Florida Saves Cash And Time With Dual-Core Systems

The school deployed Rackable Systems' high-density servers and dual-core Opteron processors to nearly double its computing capacity.

When the University of Florida was looking to avoid a potential $100,000 energy surcharge, as well as accelerate the second phase of its high-performance computing deployment by as much as a year, it found the answer in dual-core enabled servers from Rackable Systems Inc.

The combination of Rackable's high-density servers that are half the depth of conventional rack-mount equipment, which allows for installation from both the front and back of a chassis, and dual-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., has let the university increase its computing capacity by 1-1/2 to two times what it had anticipated this year, says Charles Taylor, senior HPC systems engineer at the university.

"It has been such a win because you lose nothing in terms of scalability and you get twice the computational power at almost no cost in terms of power and cooling," Taylor says. "It's a very hard thing to beat."

To meet the university's requirements to provide computational capabilities for use in such applications as basic sciences to applied engineering and drug development, the University of Florida planned a three-phased project to create as much as 9 teraflops of total performance.

The project begun with phase one implementation in February 2004: A 384-processor cluster based on Xeon processors in servers from "one of the big four equipment vendors," Taylor says.

Because of space constraints in its current data center, the university originally planned the second phase of its project to begin next summer when a second facility was scheduled to open. By deploying the Rackable systems, however, the university was able to replace the servers from phase one and move ahead with the second phase, all within the space limitations of its current data center, he says.

Another obstacle was adding capacity while trying to minimize the impact on cooling requirements. The department would have been charged by the university an "impact fee" of $2,370 per ton of cooling it added to its current 18 tons of cooling capability.

Using conventional single-core server technology, Taylor says he was faced with an installation that would have required 45 to 50 tons of cooling capability, which would have added a $90,000 to $100,000 impact fee.

Using the dual-core, double-density servers from Rackable, the university installed a cluster of 400 processors, with a total of 800 processing cores, in only four server racks, letting the department create about 3 teraflops of total computing capacity without paying energy impact fees.

The third phase of the project is scheduled to enter the bidding process next summer, an installation that will roughly double the installed compute capacity.

"We will be fair in the bidding process and open bids to whatever vendors care to participate, but any new vendor will have to work very hard to displace Rackable at this point," Taylor says.

Taylor acknowledges there has been "a certain amount of risk involved in going with a company that is not one of three or four established vendors," but says he has been pleased with Rackable's ability "to respond nimbly to all of our requests and concerns."

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