UAH to become Alabama hub for high-performance computing

A recent grant makes UAH the Alabama hub for statewide high-performance computing. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville received a $1 million grant that will elevate the university to Alabama’s hub for high-performance computing.

The two-year National Science Foundation grant will help establish a high-performance computing facility to serve a consortium of 10 Alabama universities. Here are the details:

Improving computing capabilities

UAH101 2
As the state’s high-performance computing hub, UAH will serve a consortium of 10 Alabama universities. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

The funding, from NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, will allow UAH to establish a high-performance computing facility to serve a consortium of 10 Alabama universities, both public and private. As the host site, UAH will ultimately have control over the hardware design, use policy and resource allocation.

Eighty percent of the grant money will purchase a new HPC cluster that will dramatically improve the computing capabilities of the consortium. Once deployed in the server room in Cramer Research Hall, the system will consist of three to four racks densely packed with individual servers called nodes. Each node will have 64-128 central processing unit cores, for a total of about 3,000 cores for the entire system.

“We plan to invite representatives from each participating institution to serve on an advisory board, thus making decision-making a collective experience. As a result, UAH will forge closer ties with the other state colleges that would enable more collaborations on science and engineering projects involving computer modeling or data analysis.”

Dr. Vladmir Florinski, professor of space science and researcher at UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research

UAH’s College of Science and College of Engineering teamed in the grant proposal. Departments providing a list of projects that would benefit their research include Biological Sciences; Chemical and Materials Engineering; Computer Science; Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Space Science.

How it will work

Vladimir Florinski
Dr. Vladmir Florinski was the principal investigator for the effort that attracted $972,261 from NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. (UAH)

Dr. Florinski said faculty, researchers and students from every participating university will be able to apply for accounts and run their applications on the UAH system.

“The real power of the machine will come from its graphics processor subsystem, consisting of 20-24 Nvidia Ampere units with a total of some 160,000 CUDA cores. The theoretical maximum double-precision performance will be in the range of 240-360 teraflops.”

Dr. Vladmir Florinski

The Advisory Board will meet remotely every semester and make recommendations on how to share computing and storage resources among the numerous research entities. Resource distribution could be based on groups, projects or individual users.

Users across the state will connect to the new flagship HPC cluster remotely using a secure shell protocol. The project will mostly rely on existing network connections between the sites. CSPAR information technology personnel will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the new HPC system.

Prior to bringing the new facility online, a series of network bandwidth tests will be performed to determine connection speeds between the hub and its users. UAH’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and CSPAR personnel will work with UAH’s Office of Information Technology at each campus to optimize routing to achieve the best throughput possible.

Before other users are allowed, resource sharing policies and support structure must be implemented and tested.

UAH is partnering with several existing programs to introduce graduate and undergraduate students to HPC in the context of their summer research projects.

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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