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New High Performance Computing Facility for Bielefeld University

Published on 14. Mai 2019, 09:58 h
Particle physicists install 5th generation special purpose computer

The department of physics at Bielefeld University receives a new high-performance compute cluster equipped with state-of-the-art graphics processors. The new facility will be used for research on properties of strongly interacting matter under extreme conditions of temperature and density. Such conditions existed in the early universe for only a fraction of the first second after the big bang but may still exist today in the interior of compact stars. The new high-performance compute-cluster is financed through a 1.9 million Euro grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The new facility will allow to significantly advance research projects which the particle physics group at Bielefeld University currently conducts within the Collaborative Research Center „Matter under extreme conditions“ (CRC-TR 211) – a research program of physicists at Bielefeld University, Technical University Darmstadt and Goethe University Frankfurt which also is funded by DFG. The inauguration of the new compute-cluster will take place on May 20, 2019, at 4pm in lecture hall 6 of the main building of Bielefeld University.


Die Arbeitsgruppe „Computersimulation und Gitterfeldtheorie“ erforscht mit dem Hochleistungsrechner stark wechselwirkende Materie: Prof. Dr. Frithjof Karsch, Markus Klappenbach, Dr. Olaf Kaczmarek, Dr. Christian Schmidt (v.l.). Foto: Universität Bielefeld, H. Sandmeyer
Prof. Dr. Frithjof Karsch, Markus Klappenbach, Dr. Olaf Kaczmarek, Dr. Christian Schmidt. Photo: Bielefeld University, H. Sandmeyer
The new high-performance compute cluster already is the 5th generation of special purpose computers operated in the physics department since more than 25 years. The new installation, however, is more than 100,000 times faster than the first special purpose computer, which was installed in 1993 to perform first studies of the structure of strongly interacting matter. The simulation group around Prof. Frithjof Karsch, Dr. Olaf Kaczmarek and Dr. Christian Schmidt will use the new compute cluster to perform even more detailed studies of the new, exotic form of matter formed by elementary particles at high temperatures or high densities. Already since some time it is known that large compounds of elementary particles show new properties under extreme conditions of temperature and density where one becomes sensitive to the substructure of elementary particles. The constituents of elementary particles, the quarks and gluons, get liberated at temperatures about 100,000 times higher than those in the interior of our sun. This leads to a new form of matter, the so-called quark-gluon plasma. The experimental study of this form of matter is being performed with large particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York State, USA. As members of a Collaborative Research Center, jointly operated by physics groups at Bielefeld University, Technical University Darmstadt and Goethe University in Frankfurt, the particle physics research group at Bielefeld University contributes to several research projects that aim at a better theoretical understanding of properties of strongly interacting matter observed by these experiments.

Similar to the now decommissioned compute cluster operated at Bielefeld University, the new high-performance compute cluster utilizes a closely coupled system of high performance graphics processing units (GPUs). Such GPU accelerators are also used in the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA. The cluster in Bielefeld consists of 224 NVIDIA Tesla V100 Tensor Core GPUs. Blocks of 8 GPUs are coupled by NVIDIA NVLink high-speed interconnect technology. These basic building blocks are being operated by 2 conventional processors (CPUs) and all CPUs communicate with each other through a fast Infiniband network. This allows complex calculations to be performed simultaneously on all GPUs. Such a calculation can then make use of a peak performance of 3.5 PetaFlops (quadrillion floating point operations per second) and 17 Terabytes of memory. This new compute facility is being installed at Bielefeld University in close collaboration with the companies sysGen GmbH and NVIDIA. sysGen GmbH is one of the leading German companies that provides state-of-the-art compute equipment.

Die fünfte Generation von Spezialrechnern: der neue Hochleistungsrechner der Bielefelder Teilchenphysik. Foto: Universität Bielefeld, H. Sandmeyer
Particle physicists install 5th generation special purpose computer. Photo: Bielefeld University, H. Sandmeyer
While the major part of the high performance compute cluster at Bielefeld University is financed through a 1.9 million Euro grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, also the University itself contributed to the current investment for the new GPU-cluster so that the new compute platform also becomes available to other researchers at Bielefeld University. They will get access to the cluster, following a simple application procedure, and will get support from the IT service center (BITS) to get started on the new machine. Immediately ready to get started on the new cluster are two research groups in the economy department. The „Data science“ and „Decision and Operation technologies“ groups of Prof. Christiane Fuchs and Prof. Kevin Tierney will use the new GPU cluster for their research projects.

More information is available online at:
• https://www2.physik.uni-bielefeld.de/gpu-cluster.html
• https://crc-tr211.org/

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