Intel True Scale Boosts Vienna Scientific Cluster

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VSCOver at the Vienna University of Technology, Dr. Ernst J. Haunschmid writes that Vienna Scientific Cluster (VSC-3) is using Intel’s true scale fabric to support scientific research at a consortium of multiple institutions in Austria. Now in its third generation, the VSC-3 cluster is being used for a wide range of applications – from genomics to climate research, using commercial and open source scientific packages, including NAMD, MM5, HMMER and DMFT, among others.

A substantial amount of the compute resources will be used for computational materials science, which has a very strong tradition in Austria. Two of the most important and widely used codes in this area were developed in Vienna, the WIEN2k package and the Vienna Ab-initio Simulation Package (VASP), which is used for performing ab initio electronic structure calculations and quantum mechanical molecular dynamics. Designing VSC-3 required carefully balancing compute performance, memory bandwidth, a strong communication backbone, and other factors, including an ability to manage highly parallel workloads.

Due to the very high inter-node communication demands, the interconnect system of VSC-3 is based on Intel’s Truescale QDR-80 design which is a very attractive fabric solution. The True Scale QDR-80 design provides an architecture that addresses the consortium’s needs in terms of message rates, latency, resiliency and scalability.

In running the benchmarks for VSC-3, using VSC’s main codes, neither Mellanox FDR or Connect IB exhibited any advantages over a dual-rail Intel True Scale Fabric QDR80. In some cases, even single-rail Intel True Scale Fabric QDR showed better performance than FDR. The experience gained from these benchmarks and from the VSC-2 performance data was used in formulating the criteria and requirements in the call for tender for VSC-3. While vendors were free to choose network technology as well as topology, the stringent performance requirements, in particular concerning the message rate (2.5 million messages per second and processor core) led the winning bidder, ClusterVision, to select Intel True Scale Fabric QDR80 for VSC-3.