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Massey supercomputer ranked 304 in the world

Massey supercomputer ranked 304 in the world

The Helix, Massey University’s Beowulf supercomputer, has been ranked 304th in the world for speed and efficiency.

The Beowulf system– a custom-made supercomputer that links 66 dual Athlon processors via a high speed network – can compute at a rate of 230 gigaflops per second, making it by far the fastest machine in the country. Its nearest rival is Niwa’s Cray computer, which can compute about 115 gigaflops.

Massey’s director of parallel computing Dr Chris Messom, says the international ranking is a great achievement and it’s wonderful to have the facility at the University. He says the Helix was benchmarked against other high-speed computers from all over the world. The University of Mannheim (Germany) and the University of Tennesee (USA) rank the supercomputers based on their performance on the benchmark, how quickly they can compute the problem and the size of the problem solved.

The new supercomputer cost around $250,000 to assemble and house, funded by the Massey University Centre of Research Excellence the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution. Its installation was managed by staff from the Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences at Albany and the components were sourced from Palmerston North-based Advantage Computers. Dr Messom says the ‘home-built’ model can compete with any brand name machine in the world – but cost only about an eighth of a brand name supercomputer with comparable processing power.

The Helix supercomputer will be fully up and running by the end of month. Most of its work will be bioinformatics applications to support research from the Allan Wilson Centre, but it will also be used by Massey mathematics staff to model ice flows in the Antarctic; in collaboration with Auckland University to model biological processes; and by quantum physicists. Despite this workload, Dr Messom says they still anticipate there will be spare capacity and some downtime so they will be making the facility available to outside users. He says he expects there will be interest from biomathematicians particularly, but the supercomputer could also draw the attention of the movie industry for their special effects.

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