Topsail soars in new performance tests

CHAPEL HILL, NC—New benchmarking results on Topsail, the Renaissance Computing Institute’s (RENCI) Dell cluster, showed a maximum performance of 28.77 teraflops—nearly 30 trillion calculations per second—more than quadruple the machine’s previous maximum performance.

The results, obtained using the High Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark, would make Topsail the 16th most powerful computer in the world and the ninth most powerful in the U.S., based on the most recent Top 500supercomputers list, which was released last November. Each node in Topsail’s 520-node cluster consists of dual quad-core Intel Clovertown 2.33 gigahertz processors with 12 gigabytes (GB) of memory and Cisco Infiniband interconnect. The system runs Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (2.6.9-42 kernel).

The cluster’s nodes were upgraded recently from dual-processor nodes with 4 GB of memory per node. Performance on Topsail before the upgrade was 6.252 teraflops.

“This upgrade provides North Carolina the kind of high performance computing resources needed to support world-class research and discovery,” said RENCI Director Dan Reed. “These numbers show that the upgrade had the expected benefits and that North Carolina now has a system capable of supporting the most computationally intensive work in the biosciences, medicine, environmental science and other domains. A new generation of discoveries will depend on our ability to maintain and continually deploy systems of this and larger caliber.”

Topsail joins Ocracoke, RENCI’s IBM Blue Gene/L system with a peak performance of 11.4 teraflops, as the institute’s primary high-end computing resources. Ocracoke serves statewide needs such as disaster response and weather forecasting. Topsail is the premier general purpose computing resource for researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and is an important part of the IT infrastructure necessary to bring major federally funded research projects to the campus, according to Reed. Last fall, Chancellor James Moeser set the goal of securing $1 billion in external funding for the UNC campus by 2015. RENCI’s role in reaching that goal will be to provide the computing, data, storage, and other technology resources needed to support large-scale research efforts.