This project, acquiring a shared, state-of-the-art, mid-sized super-computing cluster and database server, supports intensive research computing and corresponding initiatives at the institution. The current central facilities are no longer able to meet the intensive research computing and corresponding initiatives in education, as evidenced by a five-fold increase in the number of pending jobs over a period of two years. The requested cluster roughly doubles the size of the central super-computing facility, as well as adds new support for informatics-based research that relies heavily on relational database mining.
Research programs in astrophysics, biomaterials, liquid state chemical physics, nanotechnology, quantum chemistry, molecular biophysics, neuroinformatics, and structural bioinformatics, all require high-end computing resources and have become increasingly dependent on high-performance computing facilities. All these areas offer courses that involve hands-on computation. Currently, a large number of faculty, staff and students are active research users, and roughly 2/3 of those are students; additionally, 40-50 students per year make use of facilities for course related computational activities.
Based on consultations with the current primary users of the system and the systems administrator, the new proposed cluster consists of 40-50 CPU nodes, each with two Intel Xeon quad core processors, and containing 8-16 GB of storage. An infiniband interconnect will connect the processors to facilitate parallel applications. Data storage is provided for the user calculations via a RAID array of 30-40 TB. The dedicated database server has dual 4 or 6-core processors, a large memory footprint, and high performance local disks to store the database.
The system is housed in the renovated facility on the Information Technology Services (ITS) floor of the Wesleyan Science Tower, maintained by a designated ITS systems manager and made available for research and instructional needs over the current WESNET network. A faculty Computer Advisory Committee provides academic oversight, manages allocation requests, and coordinates with ITS. The institution continues to support the administration of the new system.
The instrument services both the faculty research and student education. It enables new science to be produced in the course of diverse research projects and impacts the ongoing instruction in the University, serving as a learning tool to develop student scientific computing proficiency both through existing courses and participating in faculty-led research. To further extend the educational and training goals, a new Scientific Computing and Informatics Center (SCIC) was developed with funding support from the University, aimed at facilitating the effective use of the new high-performance computing facility by all faculty and students, and supporting the educational initiatives of courses utilizing computational resources. The SCIC also operates a summer program supporting undergraduate research and developing teaching modules (in collaboration with relevant faculty) that directly impacts many courses across the curriculum.
The cluster and database facility also serve as a focal point and resource for undergraduate students in computationally intensive courses of study, including a recently approved interdisciplinary 'Certificate Program in Informatics and Modeling'. This interdisciplinary program functions effectively as a minor field of study alongside major fields. The program has two elements, a computational and an informatics foci.