University of Oldenburg helps researchers push the boundaries of knowledge with a world-class supercomputer

Overview
Tackling the major societal challenges of the 21st century requires access to high-performance computing (HPC) resources capable of analyzing data and producing results fast. Working with pro-com DATENSYSTEME, the University of Oldenburg installed an HPC cluster based on Lenovo NeXtScale nx360 M5 nodes, Lenovo System x3650 M5 servers and Lenovo GSS24 – increasing performance by a factor of 17. By securing a spot on the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, the university has strengthened its reputation as a renowned research location, ready for new talent and projects.
 
“Our new Lenovo HPC cluster is 17 times faster and eight times more energy-efficient than our previous supercomputer.”
 —Burkard Meyendriesch,
Head of IT Services,
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
 
Solution components
Hardware
Lenovo NeXtScale System M5
Lenovo NeXtScale nx360 M5 compute nodes with Intel® Xeon® E5 processor family
NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs
Lenovo System x3650 M5
Lenovo Solution for GPFS Storage Server (GSS24) with 926 TB storage
Mellanox FDR Infiniband
 
Software
IBM Spectrum Scale
Red Hat Enterprise Linux
xCAT Extreme Cluster/Cloud Administration Toolkit
 
“The new Lenovo HPC solution unlocks entirely new possibilities. Our scientists can work with more complex models to further their research and gain a deeper understanding of our world.”
 —Burkard Meyendriesch,
Head of IT Services,
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
 
“The university made the strategic decision to prioritize HPC with this Lenovo solution.”
 —Burkard Meyendriesch,
Head of IT Services,
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
 
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg is a German higher education institution with over 15,200 students and a strong focus on interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research. Scientists across the university’s six faculties work to tackle some of the biggest challenges of the 21st century, from food supply to the availability of energy sources.

Burkard Meyendriesch, Head of IT Services at Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, begins: “We always want to attract the brightest and most ambitious researchers who will help us push the boundaries of science. Our main focus is on sustainable development and renewable energy studies, but researchers at the university carry out innovative projects to gain new insight in fields as diverse as chemistry and neuroscience – all of which require increasingly complex data simulations. To maintain our position as a leading research university, we must offer first-class research facilities.”

Powering world-class research
To win larger project funds and become an even more attractive destination for world-class researchers, the University of Oldenburg wanted to strengthen its scientific computing capabilities and enhance its interdisciplinary profile by supporting a range of different research requirements. This includes everything from solving large quantum mechanics equations to modeling marine fish biodiversity, as well as neuroscientific research into audiology at the university’s nationally-recognized ‘Cluster of Excellence’, Hearing4all. The University of Oldenburg also wanted to accelerate highly specialized computational fluid dynamics simulations to improve wind turbine components.

The university had to strike a balance between performance, complexity and costs that would provide researchers with world-class facilities while allowing the IT team to operate the HPC environment cost-efficiently.

Burkard Meyendriesch elaborates: “Our goal was clear: to give our scientists the most powerful system we could fit into our data center and our budget without overstretching our electricity and cooling facilities.”

Top performance for leading scientists
After an extensive evaluation, the University of Oldenburg selected Lenovo Partner pro-com DATENSYSTEME to implement a new HPC solution based on Lenovo technologies.

Burkard Meyendriesch explains: “We were pleased that pro-com won the public tender for our HPC system – we have collaborated with them on previous projects and the experience has always been positive. They understood our diverse requirements and designed an architecture that satisfies the demands of different research groups, while remaining within budget.

“As well as meeting all of our requirements in terms of storage and networking, we found that the Lenovo solution offered the most compute performance of all the products we evaluated. This was a key deciding factor, as the cluster has to support extremely data-intensive research.”

Working closely with Lenovo, pro-com implemented 540 Lenovo NeXtScale nx360 M5 nodes with Mellanox FDR Infiniband technology in combination with 32 Lenovo System x3650 M5 rack servers. Powered by 13,920 Intel® Xeon® E5 processor family cores, which provide a high performance-per-watt ratio, the system, known as CARL, was included in the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest computing clusters with a benchmark performance of 457 TFlop/s.

One of the key differentiators of the Lenovo solution was its integration with the IBM Spectrum Scale file system, which gives researchers rapid access to large amounts of data. The environment uses the Lenovo GPFS Storage Server (GSS) solution, equipped with 6 TB drives, leveraging IBM Spectrum Scale for high-performance parallel file access. Additionally, the latest NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPU cards further accelerate certain workloads.

Burkard Meyendriesch adds: “The collaboration with pro-com and Lenovo was really smooth. Lenovo Partner pro-com coordinated everything for us. Lenovo delivered pre-built racks, moved them into our data center and connected the systems. Within a week, pro-com had completed the basic installation.”

In addition, pro-com set up a flexible cluster management tool, xCAT, that allows the university to easily add compute nodes as needed – a feature that the IT team and scientists, faced with growing data volumes, both highly appreciate. The pro-com team was also able to reuse cooling components and racks from the previous system, helping the university to leverage existing technology investments to increase the cost-efficiency of the new HPC system.

Supporting cutting-edge science
Today, nearly 400 researchers use the HPC facilities at University of Oldenburg to support a wide range of innovative projects, including the interdisciplinary ‘Cluster of Excellence’, Hearing4all.

The Hearing4all research project is committed to improving the hearing experience for all. With the CARL supercomputer, scientists from the University of Oldenburg can perform fundamental, model-based research on the diagnostics and auditory profiling of human hearing. Using a model-based approach enables Hearing4all to individualize treatment of hearing loss – potentially transforming the lives of those with hearing impairments.

Burkard Meyendriesch comments: “The new Lenovo HPC solution unlocks entirely new possibilities. With 21 GB of memory per core, 12 times more than on our existing cluster, scientists can work with more complex models to further their research and gain a deeper understanding of our world.”

The solution also improves energy efficiency, as Burkard Meyendriesch explains: “Our new Lenovo HPC cluster is 17 times faster and eight times more energy-efficient than our previous supercomputer. It’s only because of this higher effectiveness that we could boost performance so much within our fixed building constraints.”

Since deploying the cluster, the University of Oldenburg has successfully secured EUR34 million in research grants, and published more than 100 academic papers and dissertations based on research enabled by its Lenovo HPC environment. The university hopes to secure more funding and to release more publications by continuing to support scientific computing.

Burkard Meyendriesch concludes: “The university made the strategic decision to prioritize HPC with this Lenovo solution. Featured on the prestigious TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, one of only around ten universities in Germany, we’re very confident of attracting even more leading researchers and winning new funds in the future with the CARL supercomputing system.”

For more information
To learn more about Lenovo Data Center Systems solutions, contact your Lenovo Sales Representative or Lenovo Business Partner, or visit: lenovo.com/systems

For more information about Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, visit: www.uni-oldenburg.de/en
 
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