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HPC ≠ Complex and Unreliable!

Barbara Murphy

CMO

Utah State University (USU) is bucking the trend of many universities who are leveraging the high performance computing (HPC) facilities at national laboratories for research, paying on a per-use basis, rather than maintaining their own HPC centers.  Using national labs could potentially eliminate on-going capital equipment investment along with the associated operating and maintenance expenses, and is a good way to gain experience in HPC.  However, as the system demand grows, the work of planning research around available cycles on other systems brings its own set of challenges.  As such, USU has chosen to invest in and maintain its own Center for High Performance Computing (HPC@USU) – a private cloud supporting a broad spectrum of users across numerous university departments. 

While the national labs maintain very large compute clusters, they are heavily utilized so getting access to them frequently involves long delays and shared processing queues.  The HPC@USU has demonstrated that the center is a valuable asset for the university.  Not only does a dedicated HPC center provide better, faster, and more reliable service to the faculty, students, and staff, but it also helps attract top talent and research funds to the university.

When Utah State made the decision to build out its own HPC facility it considered both open source as well as turnkey solutions such as Panasas ActiveStor.  In the past, the director and staff at the center struggled to support systems utilizing the open source Lustre file system and understood the inherent problems with so-called “free” software.   They were very impressed with ActiveStor for its ease of use, scalability, performance, and overall reliability, not to mention a superior support team.  Ultimately the decision was easy to make, given the limitations on IT staffing within the center.  ActiveStor allows USU to do more with its big data workloads in design and discovery, and get results faster.

For more information, read the full success story.