UW Faculty Encouraged to Apply For Access to Mount Moran

October 30, 2012
Man working on computer
Tim Brewer, UW’s end user support manager for information technology, checks a few nodes on Mount Moran, the centerpiece of the university’s Advanced Research Computing Center (ARCC).

Mount Moran will soon be open to the University of Wyoming campus for high-performance computing operations and research that will lead to some scientific breakthroughs.

“We’re on target for Nov. 1,” says Tim Brewer, end user support manager for information technology. “We have a few test users who are helping us work out the bugs.”

The computing cluster, nicknamed “Mount Moran” after a mountain peak in western Wyoming’s Tetons, and a large-scale storage system make up the Advanced Research Computing Center (ARCC).

Unlike the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC), UW faculty members do not apply to use core hours on Mount Moran. Rather, they apply for access to Mount Moran by filling out a request form at http://ARCC.uwyo.edu/content/arcc-access-request-form .

“Fill out the form, hit ‘submit’ and it sends us an email,” says Brewer, who handles scheduling logistics for Mount Moran. “We create the account and give users a temporary password. It’s as simple as that.”

ARCC will conduct training sessions for faculty on how to use their own computers in concert with Mount Moran. Users also can view the queue for available computing time and find helpful documentation. For more information, go to http://ARCC.uwyo.edu.

The cluster, which will be available 24-7, will operate as a “condominium model,” meaning that the university will provide the basic infrastructure -- personnel to run it, basic networking and the basic computer architecture to keep it running -- for the campus cluster. In exchange, UW researchers will buy computing nodes (computers) and/or storage. That investment will come from faculty securing successful grant proposals, which are expected to include a request for funding for the computational resources needed for their specific research projects.

The university also will offer some communal nodes to faculty who do not purchase computer nodes. All nodes, communal and purchased, will be available to all users, but communal users will receive priority access to communal nodes and invested users will receive priority access to their nodes.

“The system regulates itself automatically,” he explains.

For example, a researcher, at the beginning of the month, may use up a significant amount of computer time running a large program that takes a couple days. If the researcher attempts to run the program again, Mount Moran will recognize this and place the job as a low priority in the queue, thus allowing other researchers preference for their projects, Brewer says.

The campus cluster will serve two purposes. One, it will enable atmospheric and earth sciences faculty -- who will be able to use the NWSC -- to learn what to expect with their software. The cluster provides the opportunity for that group of faculty to work out issues caused by scaling up parallel algorithms from tens or hundreds of processors to thousands of processors, before moving up to tens of thousands of processors on the NWSC supercomputer.

“We are going to be a gateway for scientists who meet the criteria to go to Yellowstone at the NWSC,” Brewer says.

Two, the cluster will provide a research resource for UW research faculty -- such as bioinformaticists, social scientists, pure mathematicians and theoretical physicists  -- whose research doesn’t fall within the scope of the NWSC.

“While Mount Moran's actual computing ability is a contributing factor to our ability to collaborate, I think the design is perhaps more relevant,” Brewer says of the IBM machine. “From day one, the design team pushed for a flexible and expandable system that was accessible from almost anywhere. With the right equipment on their end, scientists at sea can connect to Mount Moran, adjust their models with current data, and start another simulation. Collaborating scientists at other universities can look at the resulting data without leaving their office.”

Brewer also sees Mount Moran aiding UW researchers to obtain more grant money for their projects or grants they would otherwise be unable to secure without access to the high-performance computing resource.

“That’s because a granting agency would see that the university has a larger research base to offer,” Brewer says.  

In time, Brewer says he wants to create a web page that periodically provides updates about the science that takes place on Mount Moran.

“We don’t want it to be a mysterious piece of hardware no one has a connection to,” Brewer says. “Moran will be a campus resource.”


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