High-Performance Computing Available at NMU
Northern’s new supercomputer lab will enable faculty and students to split large tasks into smaller pieces that can be run simultaneously on multiple processors, achieving faster results.
“Parallel processing is not a new concept, but we now have nine boxes, or the equivalent of 18 computers in a small space,” said Dave Powers (Mathematics and Computer Science). “That means we can run programs 18 times faster than if you used a single computer. The applications for this extend beyond math research and instruction. It can be used for any of the sciences that require high-speed computing. Simulations that used to take days could be completed in half a day with this system.”
A single computer once filled a large room. Now, clusters of computers can fit in the same space and drastically reduce processing time. Powers said the largest parallel processing site in the world, to his knowledge, is at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.
“It has one cluster of 131,000 computers tied together. It’s amazing because they all have to communicate with one another. They’re predicting that in the future, it might be possible to put a cluster on a single chip and plug that into one box.”
Powers spent the fall semester installing the software and obtaining benchmarks to ensure that Northern’s new “Cat Cluster” was operating correctly. Computer science classes are using the lab this semester and Powers has already fielded faculty requests to use the cluster for research.