Consumer GPUs Power 2 Petaflop Deep Learning Cluster at ASTRON

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Dr. Joeri Van Leeuwen from the University of Amsterdam describes the new GPU cluster at Astron.

Today ClusterVision announced the successful depoyment of a new high performance computing GPU cluster system for the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). The 2 PFLOPS installation, codenamed ARTS, will be used to assist the institute’s Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope with analyzing and deciphering large pulsar flashes.

The ARTS supercomputer is completely powered by image processing chips from the gaming industry. “Gamers use very powerful processors for video tasks: the GPUs”, explains Dr. Joeri Van Leeuwen from the University of Amsterdam. “We now use these chips for the first time to process the high-speed images of our telescope.”

The supercomputer consists of 200 consumer GPUs, which process 4 terabits of data per second: more than the entire internet of the Netherlands. With a peak compute capacity of 2 petaflops it is the most powerful GPU supercomputer in the Netherlands.

As part of the APERTIF project, ASTRON has installed new high-speed cameras on the telescopes to better capture the pulsar flashes. To be able to process the large amounts of data these cameras will capture, the institute was looking for a state of the art HPC solution that would satisfy all their needs. ClusterVision designed a cluster based on consumer GPUs that is able to process all this data. By employing a large number of GPU nodes, data from the telescopes could be processed much faster and way more precisely.

By utilizing the deep learning capabilities of the GPU cluster, the telescopes will be able to detect pulsar flashes with much greater accuracy through self-learning. In the past, ASTRON scientists had to manually detect and input pulsar patterns. With deep learning, ARTS does it for them.”

ASTRON’s goal is to make discoveries in radio astronomy happen. ASTRON provides front-line observing capabilities for its own astronomers in-house, and for the wider national/ international community. The institute expects this strategy to regularly result in astronomical discoveries that significantly influence our understanding of the content, the structure and the evolution of the Universe.

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