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RWTH Aachen University orders Bull supercomputer to support its scientific, industrial and environmental research

The North Rhine-Westphalia Technical University (RWTH or Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule) in Aachen - one of the nine German 'Universities of Excellence' with about 33 000 students - has chosen a bullx supercomputer. The new system, featuring over 28,000 processing cores, will deliver some 300 Teraflops of power and three Petabytes of disk storage, and will give the University a significant advantage when it comes to running computer simulations that reflect reality as closely as possible.
In addition, the University's Center for Computing and Communication and Bull have signed a collaboration agreement aimed at optimizing applications that may be useful to industry in heterogeneous cluster environments and in the area of 'Green IT'.

Cologne/Aachen, February  14, 2011 -

Nowadays, supercomputers are absolutely essential in numerous areas of research and innovation. They contribute to the development of new products and materials by helping to find the optimum technical solution, through the process of computer simulation. These complex calculations have helped to achieve progress in many areas, including cutting the fuel consumption of modern cars and aircraft, creating new materials and a better understanding of climatic phenomena.


Researchers based in the Engineering and Life Sciences faculties at RWTH Aachen University need access to ultra high-performance computing systems: "The new Bull supercomputer is a vital asset for our scientists working in engineering, physical sciences, chemistry, biology, mathematics and computer science. It will contribute to major advances in the many disciplines where the University uses computer simulation, whether they involve understanding natural phenomena more accurately, discovering new raw materials or developing new technical processes," explains Professor Christian Bischof, Director of the Center for Computing and Communication and holder of the Chair in Scientific Computing at RWTH Aachen University.

"We chose Bull because we were looking for a High-Performance Computing (HPC) partner in whom we could have total confidence, and who understands how to meet our needs over the coming years - and because the overall architecture of the proposed system met the demands of our researchers and their disciplines perfectly," added Prof. Bischof.

The Center for Computing and Communication at RWTH is the main supplier of computing to the whole University. HPC and Virtual Reality (VR) for visualizing and analyzing the results from computing are seen as strategic areas for the University. Both actively support the core competencies of engineers and scientists through simulation, which in many areas has become the third pillar of science alongside theory and experimentation.

As Prof. Bischof explains: "One part of the RWTH Aachen University's new supercomputer will be available exclusively to scientists in the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), which will therefore form the cornerstone of the 'JARA-HPC Partition'. As a result, in future JARA researchers will have access to a high-performance computing platform which - along with JARA's HPC skills - an HPC ecosystem designed supports scientific simulation."

System performance: by way of comparison...

  • The overall power of the system - at 300 Tflop/s (300 Tflop/s = 300 x 1012 floating-point operations a second) - is virtually the same as 10,000 of the latest desktop PCs.

  • Light travels at 30 centimeters a nanosecond. In the same timespan, the RWTH supercomputer will complete 300,000 operations.

  • The system can write up to 19 GB of data a second to the attached storage system: filling the equivalent of four DVDs.

  • The disk storage system has a total capacity of three Petabytes, or 3,000 Terabytes (3 x 1015 bytes). It would take an MP3 player 6,000 years of continuous operation to play the equivalent amount of data.

  • Its processing power would rank the new computer as one of the 30 most powerful supercomputers in the world, compared with the most recently published TOP500 listing (top500.org).

Crucial areas of application

Over a thousand scientists - as well as hundreds of students ¬- already actively use the computing resources provided by the Center for Computing and Communication. Which means a very large number of applications are being used and developed at RWTH, both in Windows and Linux environments. The five-fold boost in available computing power will open up exciting new possibilities for these engineers and scientists.

All the key disciplines at the University make use of HPC to explore the universe both at an the infinitely small level - in nanotechnology, bionics, elementary particles in physics and chemistry... - and an infinitely grand scale in climate science, energy management and processing techniques.

For example, building reliable pipelines requires detailed knowledge of the behaviour of metallic raw materials at the level of their microstructure during the casting, rolling, solidification and welding. RWTH Aachen University is also interested in the future of information and communications techniques, mobility and transport.

The growing complexity of the scientific and technical problems being posed today and in the future will require increasing co-operation between specialists from various different disciplines. Engineers may be working closely with mathematicians and IT experts to help them solve their issues. So RWTH Aachen University is actively strengthening its interdisciplinary teaching and research. For example, in 2002 it established an interdisciplinary course on 'Computational Engineering Science'.

"We are delighted that the contract for this supercomputer marks the starting point of a long-term co-operation, which goes well beyond the performance of the system itself," comments Michael Gerhards, General Manager of Bull Germany. "As a result, RWTH Aachen University, Bull and our associated partners will be making a decisive contribution to the North Rhine-Westphalia scientific cluster, as well as to environmental protection."

As part of this co-operation, the University's Center for Computing and Communication and Bull will be working together to optimize standard HPC applications, such as OpenFOAM, for hybrid cluster architectures, to make optimum use of the advantages of these kinds of architectures. In this type of architecture, numerous multi-processor systems with large memory capacity are brought together using a high-performance network. This architecture makes the most of the benefits offered by both Message Passing Interface (MPI) standards and the significant memory available through OpenMP: an application programming interface that scientists from the Aachen Center for Computing have successfully been using over a long period.

Industry users will also benefit from the new supercomputer. "Nowadays, computer simulation plays a key role in development and production, in almost all sectors of industry," says Joachim Redmer, Director of Bull Germany's HPC activities. "It's something we are clearly seeing in our discussions with our industrial customers. RWTH Aachen University is especially well known for its engineering curriculum. With the new Bull supercomputer, and as part of our co-operation, we will ensure that industry benefits from all the scientific performance we can achieve as rapidly as possible, so as to strengthen the competitiveness of our businesses and reinvigorate science."

As part of a subsequent joint research project, the RWTH Center for Computing and Bull will be working on optimizing the efficiency of supercomputer processing, to ensure that each operation uses less energy. The electricity consumption of a major system like this is typically almost a megawatt (equivalent to 200 households), so this is an especially crucial issue, especially when it comes to environmental protection. "Our aim is to significantly reduce the electricity consumption, using software developed as part of our collaboration, with no perceptible impact on performance," explains Klaus Brühl, Deputy Director of the Center for Computing and Communication at RWTH Aachen University. "This advance in support of 'Green IT' will also have a positive effect on operating costs."

The new supercomputer is due to be delivered from March 2011 onwards and to go into service during May 2011.

Technical specification for the new Bull supercomputer at RWTH Aachen University

  • The system, based on a bullx platform, features around 28,000 of the latest-generation Intel processing cores (Intel® Xeon® series 5600 and 7500), delivering peak power of 300 Teraflops (300 x 1012 floating-point operations a second).

  • The two-part system offers numerous options for parallelization. The massively parallel section (MPI) includes 1,350 bullx B500 processing nodes with a total of 16,200 cores. The SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) section includes 11,456 cores, grouped into 181 bullx S6010/S6030 supernodes, each of which is equipped with 64 cores with high-capacity shared memory. These nodes are in turn grouped into a large-scale cluster that can be programmed along with the MPI.

  • Over 90 Terabytes of live memory are available across all 1,500 nodes in the cluster.

  • The storage system has a total disk capacity of three Petabytes (3,000 Terabytes). The storage system has an aggregate bandwidth of 19 GB/sec.

  • The nodes in the system are connected via a high-performance InfiniBand QDR interconnect network.

Bull is the supercomputer architect on this project, which features not only bullx nodes developed by its own R&D teams, but also the best technologies on the market including Intel processors, the Data Direct Networks storage system and the Platform LSF batch manager.

For more information, visit: www.bull.com or www.rwth-aachen.de

About RWTH Aachen University

With 260 institutes in nine faculties, RWTH Aachen University is one of Europe's leading institutions for science and research. Currently around 31,400 students are enrolled in over 100 academic programs. Over 5,200 of them are international students hailing from 130 different countries.

The scientific education students receive at RWTH Aachen is firmly rooted in real-world applications. As a result, our graduates are highly sought after by businesses as trainees and for executive positions.

National and international rankings show that our graduates have a high aptitude for managing complex tasks, constructive problem solving in teams, and taking on leadership responsibilities. It should come as no surprise, then, that one out of every five board members at German corporations is an alumnus of RWTH Aachen.

The University's innovative force is also reflected in the high number of start-ups in the area: over the past twenty years about 1,250 spin-off businesses were founded and created around 30,000 jobs in the greater Aachen region. The University itself is the largest employer in Aachen and the surrounding area, and contributes to the professional education of more young people than any other business or institute in the region. The University will continue to contribute to the structural growth and development of the region which used to be primarily a mining area and is now in the process of successfully transforming itself into a center for high technology.

Excellence in teaching and research constitutes the basis from which the University works with other leading institutions and technical universities from around the world. To give an example, RWTH participates in the IDEA league, a network of the leading Universities of Technology in Europe, which defines standards for degree programs and academic training. Such international collaboration also serves to enhance the University's position in the competition for highly-qualified and motivated students from both German and abroad.

The establishment of educational and research institutions modeled on RWTH Aachen in Thailand and Oman highlights the success of RWTH's approach. The approval of funding for three clusters of excellence, a graduate school and the institutional strategy "RWTH Aachen 2020: Meeting Global Challenges" by Germany's Excellence Initiative will help RWTH Aachen University to consolidate its international competitive edge.

About the Center for Computing and Communication

The Center for Computing and Communication and RWTH Aachen University is a centralized body providing computing and communication services and resources to all the University's institutes, personnel and students. In particular, the Center is responsible for planning, operating and making available centralized computing, visualization and communication facilities, and providing additional services where it would be impossible or inappropriate for a single institute to do so. The Center also supports users and advises them on how they can make the most of the tools it offers.

For example, the Center offers methodological support for virtual reality - an area where it has been involved in developing new spatial visualization techniques - and High-Performance Computing, providing code optimization and parallelization and support for research projects. In addition, the Center has installed and administers the University's network and is responsible for its overall computing strategy.

The Center has established partnerships with various companies and is looking to grow is collaborations with other universities at a regional and national level, to share scientific resources - especially as part of the association of North Rhine-Westphalia higher education establishments. The aim is to build a regional skills network and to share resources between universities.

Press contact for the Center for Computing at RWTH Aachen University:
Tanja Wittpoth-Richter, Communications Manager, Center for Computing and Communication
RWTH Aachen University, Seffenter Weg 23, 52074 Aachen , Germany
Tel: +49 241 80 29246 - Fax: +49 241 80 629246

Press contact
Image sept - Anne-Charlotte Créach -+33 (0) 1 53 70 94 21 -accreach@image7.fr

About Bull, an Atos company


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Aurélie Negro
+33 1 58 04 05 02