The Richmond Supercomputing Cluster. What is it?
What is it?
The Supercomputing Cluster at the University of Richmond is used to perform computationally intensive running simulations and data analysis. It consists of one master node and 52 slave nodes of which 49 are dual 1.4 GHz Athlon class and 3 2.0 GHz Athlon Class.
The cluster project at Richmond began in the spring of 1999. Professors Mike Vineyard and Jerry Gilfoyle realized the need for an increase in computing power to support their research in nuclear physics at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab). Using funds from their Department of Energy (DOE) research grant and other monies from the University, they put together a prototype computing cluster in the summer of 1999. That prototype (shown below) is no longer operational.
The current Research cluster was assembled by LinuxLabs in the winter of 2001-2002 and arrived in February 2002. After a commissioning phase, the cluster became fully operational in fall, 2002. The funds for the project came from a successful grant application by Dr. Gilfoyle and Dr. Vineyard to the Major Research Instrumentation Program of the National Science Foundation for $175,000. The current configuration consists of 52, 512-MByte-RAM, 1.4 GHz Athlon remote nodes and one master. Each node has a single 18-GByte disk. It is supported by 3 TBytes of space in three RAID disks and communicating by another 1.4 GHz Athlon fileserver.
Details on Using the Supercomputer
The Supercomputing Cluster runs on the Linux operating system and uses the Beowulf system for managing batch jobs. Programs are written in Fortan, Perl, or C++ and are submitted to the master node. The master node then sends the commands to the slave nodes and
What we are currently working on?
Out-of-Plane Measurements of the Structure Functions of the Deuteron
We now know that particles called quarks are the basis for the atoms, molecules, and atomic nuclei that form us and our world. Nevertheless, how these quarks actually combine to form that matter is still a mystery. The deuteron is an essential testing ground for any theory of the nuclear force because it is the simplest nucleus in nature. In this project we use the unique capabilities of the CLAS detector at Jefferson Lab to make some of the first measurements of little-known electric and magnetic properties of the deuteron. In the past scattering experiments like those done at JLab were confined to reactions where the debris from the collision was in the same plane (usually horizontal) as the incoming and outgoing projectile (an electron in this case). With CLAS we can now measure particles that are scattered out of that plane and are sensitive to effects that have been often ignored up to now. These measurements will open a new window into the atomic nucleus.
For more, see “Nuclear Physics at UR” poster.
Research cluster prototype consisting of 12 nodes.
Working with SpiderWulf. Students Sherwyn Granderson (left) monitors the status of the cluster while Rusty Burrell and Kuri Gill (right) review some results from recent data analysis.
Why we need it...
Although initial analysis of data taken in CLAS is done at Jefferson Lab, we analyze this data more deeply at the University of Richmond. Performing this second pass analysis requires us to be able to store full data sets from a particular running period, so that we don’t have to repeatedly move data on and off the system. The set we are currently working on is about 1 Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes), and past data sets have been even larger. The computing cluster has a maximum capacity of 4.4Terabytes.
In addition to disk space, considerable computing power is necessary to perform not only data analysis but also precise simulations of CLAS in order to produce publication-quality measurements and results. For example, running a typical simulation on our prototype cluster developed in 1999 (see “History”) would take about 39 days. This is dar too long to expect the analysis to be complete in a reasonable amount of time. On our current cluster, this same job can be run over a weekend or even overnight.
The Power of SpiderWulf
Often in the world of computing (and specifically supercomputing), a measure of FLOPS (floating point operations per second) is used to compare computer performances. In order to see where our cluster stands, we measured our machine and compared it to the top supercomputers in the world since 1993. The results are shown below.
The data points are GigaFLOPS per processor, as many of these supercomputers contain hundreds or thousands of processors. The red points represent the top supercomputer of each year, and the blue point represents where our cluster fell in the year that it was purchased.
For further comparison, we measured the FLOPS of a typical desktop PC, and compared to our measure of the cluster….
Students who choose to participate in an undergraduate research project develop a deeper understanding of not only nuclear physics, but how to go about solving a daunting, computational challenge to develop a new application. One vital aspect to studying nuclear physics is scientific computing. Along with pure physics instruction, students are given access to the supercomputer and learn how to use it. They learn about new operating systems and programming languages, as well as the networking structure and usage of the supercomputing cluster.
University of Richmond
SpiderWulf: UR’s supercomputing cluster, 2002-present
ENIAC: The world’s first electronic digital computer, 1945