Oregon State University Deploys High-Performance Computing Clusters to Accelerate Research

The Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (CGRB) at Oregon State University (OSU) needed to find a way to leverage technology to accelerate its faculty’s diverse range of research workloads, and found its solution by partnering with Dell EMC and AMD to deploy versatile high-performance computing (HPC) clusters.

CGRB researchers are focused on genome-enabled and data-driven research in the life and environmental sciences at OSU and across the state. Specifically, researchers look to improve health, make better use of natural and agricultural resources, understand the global environment, and develop new bio-based products and energy sources. This type of research is incredibly data-drive and requires strong computational power.

As part of its IT strategy, CGRB designed a heterogeneous IT environment. The CGRB computing environment encompasses about 5,000 processors and 5 petabytes of usable storage space, according to Christopher Sullivan, assistant director for biocomputing at the CGRB.

“We try to create an extremely heterogeneous environment where we can integrate any technology into the same infrastructure and allow our users to take advantage of that immediately,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan explained that CGRB has relied on Dell EMC to meet its computation needs, saying, “We have all kinds of Dell EMC products, most of which are in the leading-edge HPC space, and we have all kinds of other hardware as well.”

For CGRB, OSU uses Dell EMC PowerEdge systems, which include multiple server models with AMD EPYC processors. Additionally, the systems include the two-socket Dell EMC PowerEdge R7425 rack server and up to two enterprise class AMD EPYC processors. The overall solution is designed to withstand the challenges of data analytics, HPC, memory-bound workloads, and scale-up software-defined deployments.

Discussing CGRB’s servers, Sullivan said, “the PowerEdge R7425 server offers outstanding configuration flexibility. It provides an adaptable architecture that can be tailored to the needs of diverse research workloads.”
Sullivan also noted that overall, AMD-based systems from Dell EMC account for about 70 percent of the CGRB’s server infrastructure.

“We basically integrate everything into a single cluster architecture that allows our users to submit jobs,” Sullivan said. “The infrastructure can automatically determine the architecture and determine what binaries to call, and call the right binaries on the right machines. And then people just harmoniously work.”
As for why OSU has decided to so closely partner with Dell EMC for CGRB, Sullivan explained, “Dell EMC provides us leading-edge technology that allows us to implement new hardware, overcome limits and change the scope of work that we do.”

He added, “we test every piece of hardware, believe it or not. Dell EMC is the only server that can hold up to the type of work that we are pounding on these boxes. Other boxes will fail, and we will end up with them down. And so a big reason that we have Dell EMC servers is because they are bulletproof — you can drop them on their head and they still run — and they are fast.”