DTU boasts top-performing supercomputers

Friday 08 Feb 19
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by Tom Nervil

Contact

Steen Pedersen
CIO, deputy director
IT Service
+4545 25 10 56

Contact

Claus Nielsen
+4545 25 10 02
Supercomputers make a big difference to DTU researchers and students and are a prerequisite for many research projects.

Over a five-year period, DTU will invest close to EUR 9.4 million (DKK 70 million) in upgrading and innovating the University’s computer processing power and will make an additional contribution this year. Among other things, a new version of the Computerome supercomputer, which is used for life science research, will get three times more processing power than its predecessor.

“Expected to be ready for use after the summer holidays, the new version of the Computerome will probably be Denmark’s most powerful computer,” says Steen Pedersen, CIO and director at DTU.

DTU’s fleet of powerful supercomputers or HPC clusters (High Performance Computing) consists of a number of servers that are connected through a high-speed network.

There are several supercomputers at DTU. One of them is located at Risø, where DTU invested in an HPC cluster called Sofia to replace an ‘old’ cluster that has been located at Risø since 2014. Sofia is located on the first floor of a new container at Risø Campus. It is used for research at DTU Wind Energy and DTU Mechanical Engineering.

Another supercomputer has been named Niflheim and is specifically designed for materials and energy research.

A third supercomputer is made up of several computers that are part of DTU’s joint computation facility. Frequently used by students, this supercomputer is used for testing new technology and for pilot projects as well as to back up and store research data, etc.

Sensitive data

And then there is the famous DTU ‘Computerome’ supercomputer, which is used for life science data by, e.g., DTU, the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, hospitals, and private companies.

In addition, the new Computerome II will process data about the DNA of all Danes to be handled by GenomeDenmark. Life science research places special demands on the amount of data being processed as well as to the transfer time between storage and computing resources and the size of local storage.

"The amount of research data grows exponentially, and the same applies to the complexity of the calculations that are carried out by our researchers."
Claus Nielsen, University Director

“Computerome II will have a capacity that is three times larger than the one we now have,” says Steen Pedersen.“It will handle health data, which, by definition, is sensitive personal information, so there will be a strong focus on data security, which gives DTU the opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in this area as well.”

The new investment in supercomputers helps boost the DTU data infrastructure, which can help attract new researchers and students to the University.

Investment in research and education

According to University Director Claus Nielsen, there are several reasons for consolidating and focusing the University’s IT investments on large HPC facilities.

“Firstly, the amount of research data grows exponentially, and the same applies to the complexity of the calculations that are carried out by our researchers. It is essential that we can support our researchers in their calculation tasks—as is the case with the other research infrastructure that we make available,” he says.

“Secondly, it is necessary to consolidate and focus the University’s IT resources on a number of platforms for both technological, operational, environmental, and financial reasons. Thirdly, this is also a way to prepare for the future development, which will inevitably require more and greater IT investments at the University. This includes changes to how we finance the researchers’ use of our large facilities, how we make data storage available, how we handle data security, etc.”

The University Director agrees that the investment may seem huge.

“However, you need to keep in mind that this investment replaces a lot of minor investments in many different areas. Furthermore, investments in IT and digitization reflect the development of society and the associated changes to process and working methods that are also a part of DTU’s research disciplines and teaching,” says Claus Nielsen.

As technology is advancing very rapidly, HPC facilities typically only have a lifespan of four or five years, which means that new investments will be needed in the not so distant future.

Capacity

HPC supercomputer facilities consist of interconnected CPU core processors.

Sofia (DTU Wind Energy and DTU Mechanical Engineering): 16.7 cores

Niflheim (DTU Physics): 16,480 cores

Joint computation facility: 8,500 cores, of which 3,400 cores can be used by students.

Computerome II: Is expected to consist of 49,000 cores with 20 PB storage.