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Michael Dell joins U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and University of Texas President William Powers Jr. for dedication ceremony

Christine Fronczak
Christine Fronczak Dell HPC Marketing Manager

High performance computing (HPC) systems are indispensable in nearly all fields of science and the continually growing capabilities of these systems never cease to amaze me! Case in point: the new $12M supercomputer known as Lonestar 4 at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin.

Equipped with 1,888 Dell M610 PowerEdge blade servers, each with two six-core Intel Xeon 5600 “Westmere” processors, it is the third largest system on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) TeraGrid network and one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the world. It combines capabilities for visualization (“seeing is understanding”), shared memory, cloud computing and is a testament for the ever-growing demand for HPC storage. It is one of six world-class high performance and visualization resources Dell has sold to TACC.

Lonestar 4 was developed through several key members of the HPC Community including technology partners Dell, Intel, DataDirect Networks and Mellanox and academic partners at the University of Texas at Austin, UT System, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES). As the Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Ladendorf said in his article about Lonestar 4, “The new Dell Inc.-powered machine could be the most collaborative high-performance computing machine ever at UT.”

On April 4, I had the privilege of attending the Lonestar 4 dedication ceremony, where Michael Dell shared the stage with U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, UT President William Powers Jr., TACC Director for Application Collaborations Dr. Karl Schulz, and TACC Director Dr. Jay Boisseau.

Enabling human potential: Texas Advanced Computing Center unveils Lonestar 4 supercomputer - The Dell TechCenter Enabling human potential: Texas Advanced Computing Center unveils Lonestar 4 supercomputer - The Dell TechCenter Michael Dell


Enabling human potential: Texas Advanced Computing Center unveils Lonestar 4 supercomputer - The Dell TechCenter
Boisseau emceed the event. As he described the purpose of TACC as “enabling discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies,” I was struck by its similarity to our: “delivering technology solutions that enable people everywhere to grow and thrive.”

When he said that “this technology will help predict and manage our response to natural disasters, explain the nature of the universe, and lay the foundation for our technological and economic future,” he wasn’t exaggerating. He provided a fascinating description of the simulations currently being run by Lonestar 4, which include hurricane storm surges, renewable energy, black holes, quantum computing, and the recent earthquake in Japan.

In fact, our research colleagues in Japan have already used more than 100,000 CPU hours to backfill the demands of power and cycle time depleted by the recent earthquake and tsunami. The HPC researchers in Japan have put TACC on notice that they will require an increase in usage this summer to compensate for the loss of facilities by the recent disaster.

Powers, the first guest speaker, commented that technology helps “make sense of the world we live in,” and that “supercomputers are simply critical to our competitiveness in the 21st century.” When he looked at Michael and said, “You’re a great friend to this university and this town,” the room erupted with applause. Hutchison shared the same sentiment when she took the podium: “I appreciate, so much, Michael coming through – one more time.” As a newer Dell employee, I felt a great sense of pride to be working for Dell - and to be associated with our Dell HPC Solutions team.

It was fun to watch Michael, who began our company out of his dormitory room on the UT campus, take the stage and share a story about the CIO of the Chinese power grid introducing himself to Michael on a recent trip to China. He remarked that “as we provide computational power, we can solve problems,” and that it was “exciting and empowering work to be a part of.” And the TeraGrid, he said, “demonstrates the power of community.”

Shulz dove deeper into the applications of Lonestar 4, which he said “pushes the boundaries of computational science.” He made a special point of calling out the requirements for a powerful HPC supercomputer, including:

  • Fast CPUs and lots of them (Lonestar 4 has 22,656 cores)
  • The ability to keep the CPUs busy (a high speed, low latency network – more than 3.5x faster than the former Ranger cluster, with high bandwidth network connect facilitated by 1500 InfiniBand cables - more than 8 miles of cable!)
  • An expert support staff that has the human brainpower to keep the system utilized 70-90% of the time
  • A mature development environment
  • And, last but not least, EXPERIENCED RESEARCHERS!

It was great to witness the TACC dedication of Lonestar 4, and to hear these dignitaries give praise to UT/TACC and its partners who have combined their efforts for this science-enabling cluster. As Michael has stated, “Technology is about enabling human potential.” I hope this post has brought that to life for you.

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About Christine Fronczak
Christine Fronczak is the HPC Marketing Manager at Dell responsible for all marketing programs across Dell HPC solutions. In this role, Christine utilizes innovative marketing programs to enrich the HPC Community including Multimedia Supplements from Scientific Computing (e.g., www.HPCSource.com/Visualization), Enabling Discovery technical workshops (https://www.etouches.com/HPCBoston2011), as well as helping to drive the growth of Dell's active HPC Community at www.HPCatDell.com. Examples of comprehensive technical materials can be found at www.DellHPCSolutions.com.

Christine holds a BA in Mathematics/Computer Science and Secondary Education from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL and an MS in Computer Science from Iowa State University. Prior to joining Dell in 2009, Christine’s 25+ year career at HP included extensive experience in both engineering and marketing positions across multiple businesses including networking, servers and storage along with a role as HP’s WW Business Development Manager for Computer Aided Engineering(CAE). Christine is also a Nationally certified Referee/Starter for USA swimming. When she is not pursuing her passion for HPC, you might find Christine volunteering her time on the deck of swim pool in Northern California or at an NCAA college swim meet.