eResearch Report 2017 - 2018 - Page 23



Building the infrastructure to meet our needs
High-performance
computing
upgrade
In 2009, Information and
Communication Technology
Services (ICTS) took the
first step towards dedicated
support for research
through establishing
a centralised highperformance computing
(HPC) resource to provide
a reliable, scalable and
economic computing facility
for UCT’s researchers.
Nearly 10 years later, ICTS
is embarking on a major
project to upgrade the
facility – with significant
investment from
research funding.
“Hex, the original HPC
cluster that has served us for
nearly seven years, was no
longer fit for purpose,” says
senior technical specialist
Andrew Lewis. “And we
were experiencing a dip in
researcher uptake.”
The decision was taken in 2017
to upgrade Hex. The new cluster
is currently being installed and is
expected to be fully operational
by November 2018. It will be
split into several partitions,
featuring newer, faster nodes;
I can honestly say that it is thanks to the
support of the HPC team over the years that
my research reached the level where it qualified
for such significant funding from Pfizer.
graphic processing units (GPUs);
high-memory nodes; and the
older Hex nodes, which will be
available for teaching and lowpriority jobs.
The project aims to provide an
HPC cluster geared towards highprofile researchers with major
computing needs, but which
is still accessible and useful to
most researchers. The cluster
will have to be both scalable and
economical, especially in terms
of power consumption and heat
dissipation.
A research investment
Associate Professor Michelle
Kuttel, who has been using the
HPC facilities for years, has
made a significant investment
in the cluster with a funding
windfall she received from
Pfizer for her work on molecular
modelling for vaccines. She has
bought GPU nodes which will be
integrated into the new cluster.
“I am a big believer in the shared
model for computing resources,”
says Kuttel.
In this model, researchers can
outsource the management of
the facilities – a time-consuming,
highly skilled and expensive
endeavour – while still enjoying
the benefits of access. Kuttel
also notes that, no matter how
data-intensive the research, a
machine allocated to a single
project is likely to have a lot of
downtime, which could be used
by other researchers.
The support that comes with
the centralised HPC facility is
invaluable, she adds.
“I can honestly say that it is
thanks to the support of the
HPC team over the years that
my research reached the level
where it qualified for such
significant funding from Pfizer.”
21





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