All told, the cluster, with its latest nodes, will benchmark at above 100 trillion floating point instructions per second, making it about 90th on the list of the fastest supercomputers in the world.
The open source Maui Cluster Scheduler is used to allocate cluster resources -- which are allotted by the cores required -- but some users are guaranteed access to specific resources at specific times in condominium fashion.
Cluster usage has been tremendous, but Bottum had some trepidation going in. "One of the things I was afraid of was, if we spent this money and put up these capabilities, that nobody would come and use it," Bottum says.
Turns out he didn't need to worry. "In a state like South Carolina where no public institutions were on Internet2, if you build something like this you start attracting attention," Bottum says. "The one thing I did that you could construe as marketing was speak at a South Carolina IT Directors meeting in Charleston. They wanted to know what we were doing, so I threw out the idea of building a South Carolina cloud, an environment for shared services, and told them if they were interested to sign up at the door."
A half a dozen signed up. "We then went and we got some capital from various sources, including private and federal, and tried to stand this HPC thing up under the rubric of what we call the Cyber Institute. And that allowed us to have a neutral ground for bringing in researchers and other parties and not run this out of the IT organization. We were bootstrapping it out of IT but it gave us a way to think about it and not just break the backs of people who had more than full-time jobs to do. We now have about a dozen universities -- and even a high school -- that have allocations on high-performance computing."
Since then Clemson has held high-performance computing workshops around the state, many of which attract 70 or more people. "There's this sort of pent-up demand," Bottum says.
Today cluster utilization rates run at 80%-85% and often peak above 90%. "In the cluster world, this is incredible," Bottum says.
Clemson NOC: Used to monitor and control the local and wide area networks and the research, education and business computing systems, including the cluster. (Photo by Zac Wilson)
OrangeFS and OpenFlow
Of course the cluster is also core to a lot of work the university is doing, including development of a parallel virtual file system and work on OpenFlow, one of the highest-level projects to come out of the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI).