In the Company of Supercomputer

– By Syeda Qudsia

We’d just opened the door and before I could take in the cool blues and grays, my visual circuitry had come face to face with it. Well, let me remember the last time I felt this fascinated… Ahhh, well, my processor would go into an infinite loop before I can get the answer to that – Welcome to the Supercomputing Research and Education Center (ScREC), RCMS.

Resting in its glass cubicle. Credits: Syeda Qudsia

Its intimidation at first sight – Oh yeah, that is Pakistan’s fastest supercomputer installed in any institute till date. Okay, so it is mathematically big (specially for Pakistan :P): 32 Nvidia computing processors, with each processor having 960 processor cores (that makes a total of 30,720 processors). Add to this 32 Dual Quad Core Computer Nodes (8*32 = 256 processor cores), raising the total to 30,976 processor cores. And now count in the 2 Head Nodes with 16 processor cores, and you make up a giant of about 30,992 processor cores in all, which can perform 132 trillion operations in 1 second (132 teraflops/sec). This is the quickest collection of CPUs and GPUs in the country, with an internal communication speed of 40 gigabytes per second.

Distribution of 92 users, from NUST and from around.

The supercomputer can be accessed from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection and an account registered with the System Administrator. It works all the time, without a break, so there are no time limitations for its users. Despite all this, there are only 92 users currently using the machine, utilizing installed softwares, some of which are:

  1. NAMD, a molecular dynamics program, designed for bio-molecular and material studies;
  2. CAST3M, based on the finite element method, a code written for numerical problems in structural mechanics;
  3. WIEN2K, LAPW, and GIBBS2, softwares for simulations in solid state chemistry and computational material sciences;
  4. PVFS2, for use in large scale cluster computing, is a parallel virtual system for distribution of files across multiple servers;
  5. MATLAB, a tool for numerical computation, visualization, and programming.
The supercomputer, with its cooling system… Aaaaaand you cannot wear shoes in there 😛 Credits: Syeda Qudsia

Honestly speaking, the towering structure is nothing. It’s just a pair of big black cabinets that go on consuming electricity, supplied with 24/7 cooling system, comfortably resting in its big glass shell. And what it does? It hums. For the most part, that is. This is a huge facility and it needs to be used – that’s what it’s there for. Its specifications make it faster but its users make it big.

– Special thanks to Muhammad Usman, System Administrator, RCMS.

– The author is a member of Team NUST Science Blog and a senior at Atta-ur-Rahman School of Applied Biosciences.  

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6 thoughts on “In the Company of Supercomputer

  1. Sania Arif

    Good work!! We have a lot of good equipment right here in our university. Thanks for posting the informative, statistical data and an overview so that most of people could have idea of glorious equipment we have, somewhere in between these walls. Just need to be explored and used by someone 😛

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