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07/08/2015 News

Total Donates High-Speed Computer Cluster to the University of Houston

The University of Houston's (UH) Center for Advanced Computing & Data Systems (CACDS) is expanding its high performance computing capabilities thanks to a computer hardware donation from TOTAL, a leading multinational energy company. The cluster, with an estimated value of $500,000 - $1,000,000, includes 292 interconnected nodes that will occupy ten racks of space.
"Modern scientific research increasingly relies on large-scale computing and the processing of massive amounts of data. This system will increase the competitiveness of researchers at the University of Houston. I look forward to continuing our collaboration with industry partners in the Houston area, in particular with TOTAL E&P USA, Inc.," said Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Interim Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer at UH.
Total selected UH to receive the cluster donation from a group of several companies and institutions in the U.S. Criteria for awarding the donation included:
  • Ability to strengthen and sustain a research alliance/collaboration
  • Background history of collaboration between TOTAL and the potential recipient
  • Potential recipient's interest and needs for the cluster
  • Readiness of the recipient to integrate the cluster within its IT data center facility

"TOTAL is proud to support research efforts in the places where we live and work around the world. The University of Houston is a Tier One public research University whose programs are an integral part of our community and economy here in Houston," said Herve Coutrix, CEO and President of TOTAL E&P Research & Technology USA (TEP RT). "After thorough evaluation and discussion with the potential recipients, we decided to make the award to UH, which scored high in all categories under consideration."

Research and Student Impact

Director of CACDS, Barbara Chapman, says the cluster will impact Faculty and doctoral research projects in a diverse range of disciplines and will also be used by students in various course activities. Demand for the resources provided by the cluster comes from on-going research projects in chemical and biomolecular engineering, atomic physics, three-dimensional scans & analysis of archeological objects, and computer science.

Students will also benefit from access to the computer cluster, gaining valuable experience that will be beneficial in the job market. "At CACDS we have a very active high performance computing (HPC) training component, which provides a competitive advantage to students who learn how to utilize these clusters for experiments. Some students also learn about HPC networking and system administration," Chapman said. "CACDS and TOTAL are helping to build a regional and national workforce."

"This generous gift from TOTAL will significantly increase the computing resources that CACDS makes available to the UH research community, which means faster and more impactful research," Chapman noted. "We have several projects including models of reactive dissolutions to stimulate oil and gas wells, simulations of biological physics and soft condensate matter, high resolution molecular design, computational catalysis and interface chemistry and mapping brain tissue alterations that will make good use of this very powerful resource."

Speed and Capacity of the Computer Cluster

The cluster performs 26 teraFLOPS. "To put that in perspective, think of one compute operation as one addition or multiplication operation. This cluster can perform 26 trillion computations in a single second," said Jing Wen, Deputy Vice President of Advanced Computing for TEP RT and coordinator of the TOTAL donation.

The systems are interconnected with InfiniBand technology, which provides a communcation speed up to 40 Gbps (gigabits per second). This high speed bandwith will allow UH researchers to work on projects involving large model simulation and bid data analysis. Computer clusters of this size solve the largest computationally challenging problems far surpassing the capabilities of individual PCs.