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bullx™, Bull's new supercomputer at the University of Cologne


The system that Bull will deliver to the Regional Computing Center based at the University of Cologne delivers computing power equivalent to that of 5,000 PCs. The main applications include chemistry, physics and biosciences. It will have the processing power needed to run numerous new simulations, and will also enable many existing simulations to be refined.

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bullx, the new generation of Bull HPC servers launched in June 2009 dedicated to Extreme Computing, will provide 100 Teraflops of computing power. In the first phase of this project, the bullx supercomputer will consist of 215 computing nodes, each equipped with two Intel® Xeon® 5500 'Nehalem EP' quad-core processors, linked via an ultra-modern InfiniBand QDR (Quadruple Data Rate) network that guarantees extremely rapid data exchanges. This not only means it can run Massively Parallel Applications (distributed memory applications, shared memory applications), but also serial calculations, which are crucially important for parameter surveys. The new supercomputer is planned to be operational early 2010.

During the summer of 2010, Bull will install 602 additional computing nodes at the Regional Computing Center at Cologne, each of them equipped with two Intel Westmere processors (each with six computing cores), which will then be available. For extremely memory-hungry shared memory applications, four large-scale Bull servers – each with 128 cores – will also be added, including a server with one Terabyte of RAM and three servers each with 512 Gigabytes of RAM.

The system will offer a total of 26 Terabytes of RAM and 500 Terabytes of disk storage, to handle the huge volumes of accumulated data, accessible via an InfiniBand link with a total bandwidth of 10 GB/sec,” explained Michael Gerhards, General Manager of Bull Germany. “The parallel filing system implemented is Lustre, and the supercomputer's operating system is Red Hat Enterprise Linux. A proportion of the processing nodes will also support Microsoft Windows HPC Server. And the system for workload management and monitoring system includes, among other things, myJAM, a software developed by the University of Düsseldorf in partnership with Bull, and designed specifically for heterogeneous cluster environments.”

The bullx supercomputer will make a significant contribution to the research projects undertaken by many scientists, who have already been able to increase their efficiency with the help of Cologne's Center for Genomics (CCG) headed by Professor Peter Nürnberg. Since it was created in 2005, the CCG has supported numerous research projects related to the understanding of genetic modifications linked to complex diseases such as epilepsy and cancer. In order to prepare and analyze the enormous quantities of data, and to carry out large-scale simulations, access to more computing power was vital. Thanks to this new supercomputer, other researchers will be able to study the properties of ‘high-tech’ materials such as ultra-dense magnetic storage media, new types of highly efficient catalysts and nano-technology components. Meteorologists, astro-physicists and economists will also be able to benefit from the performance offered by the new system, to carry out their simulations.

The University of Cologne has 42,000 students, and its research centers include some of Germany’s most famous establishments. In the area of high-performance computers, in particular, the University has a research tradition that goes back more than fifty years. Professor Ulrich Lang, Director of the RRZK and holder of a Chair in Computing, studies numerous innovative scientific areas along with his team, including grid computing, the parallelization of algorithms, scientific visualization, parallel visualization, man-machine interaction and computer-aided collaborative working. Since 2004, a stereo projection system has been developed which enables the results of simulations produced by various scientific disciplines to be visualized.