Queen's University: Powerful research with ultra-efficient supercomputer

Atmospheric scientists analyzing global weather patterns. Psychologists modeling the brain and human memory. Biotechnologists designing complex molecules for innovative new drugs. With a Lenovo supercomputer, the Centre for Advanced Computing (CAC) at Queen’s University is helping researchers turn reams of data into scientific insight.

As one of the leading universities in Canada, Queen’s is home to hundreds of researchers – many of whom are at the very top of their respective fields and making a real impact on society with their work. From trying to find a cure for cancer to modeling global economies, scientists at Queen’s are leading the charge, as evidenced by Emeritus Professor Arthur McDonald’s Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of neutrino oscillation.

Don Aldridge, Executive Director of CAC at Queen’s, begins: “One of the coolest things about my job is that I get to work with rocket scientists and brain surgeons. At CAC, we help researchers from all disciplines turn their data into results.”

How? With a Lenovo supercomputer system equipped with powerful Intel® Xeon® processors.

“We invited several vendors to present their proposals for a new high-performance computing [HPC] environment,” says Don Aldridge. “We wanted a state-of-the-art supercomputer capable of running the latest big data analytics software programs and processing massive data sets quickly. Lenovo came out on top – not just in terms of technology, but also support. We weren’t just looking for a hardware vendor; we wanted a partner that would care for us after we’d signed on the dotted line.”

He recalls: “The Lenovo team took the time to examine all of the workloads we support across the university research community, and all of the individual requirements that the different research teams have. Armed with this information, Lenovo was able to fine-tune the configuration of our HPC environment in terms of memory and performance bandwidth to make sure it met everyone’s needs. The implementation itself was super-quick – I blinked, and everything was up and running!”

The Lenovo cluster, which takes up just 10% of the floor space of CAC’s previous supercomputer, is powering ground-breaking research at Queen’s – at much lower operating costs.

“Even though it’s a tenth of the size of our old system, we’re getting five times the performance with our Lenovo environment,” remarks Don Aldridge. “It’s so much more efficient. We’re saving thousands of dollars a day in electricity costs – cutting our annual power bill in half. Most importantly, the huge performance increase means researchers can analyze data sets faster and get results back more quickly.”

Today, around 1,000 users from across the university log onto the Lenovo system every day. Don Aldridge comments: “Software programs are running faster and we can process many more batch jobs in a given computational cycle. Researchers are really happy with the performance increase, and we’ve now got teams processing data sets that there simply wasn’t the capacity for previously.”

With the Lenovo HPC environment, CAC can handle anything researchers throw at it – from analyzing streaming medical data in real time to crunching petabytes of astrophysical data.

Don Aldridge concludes: “We’ve been so impressed with the Lenovo cluster, and are confident that it can meet all of our research computing needs for the foreseeable future. The fact that we can easily add to and scale the environment means that we will be able to continuously integrate the latest tech, ensuring that our world-leading research teams always have access to world-class HPC resources.”

“Researchers are really happy with the performance increase, and we’ve now got teams processing data sets that there simply wasn’t the capacity for previously.”
– Don Aldridge, Executive Director, Centre for Advanced Computing, Queen’s University

Solution components
Hardware

Lenovo NeXtScale System M5 technology with Intel® Xeon® E5 processors

The Centre for Advanced Computing at Queen’s University boosted the performance of its HPC environment by a factor of five with a high-density Lenovo supercomputer. Equipped with high-performance Intel® Xeon® processors, the Lenovo cluster gives researchers the power they need to crunch data faster and get results quicker, accelerating time to insight.

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