Alpine updates and RMACC 2022

This week I had the opportunity to speak at the 2022 RMACC Symposium, hosted by my own institution, about the Alpine supercomputer. My presentation and the others from my CU colleagues are available here.

In summary, Alpine has been in production since our launch event in May. After some supply chain issues (the same that have affected the entire computing sector), we are preparing to bring another round of nodes online within weeks. That will put Alpine’s total available resources (about 16,000 cores) on par with those of the retiring Summit system. It’s an exciting step for us at CURC.

As for RMACC: I’ve never attended the symposium before. After three days, I came away with a lot of new information, new contacts, and ideas for how to support our researchers better. A few topics in particular I paid attention to:

  • Better and more scalable methods of deploying HPC systems and software
  • How the community will navigate the transition from XSEDE to ACCESS
  • The companies, organizations, and universities (like mine!) building the future of this space
  • Changes in business models for the vendors and commercial developers we work with

Academic HPC is a small niche in the computing world, and gatherings like this can be valuable as spaces to connect and share our best ideas.

New supercomputer just dropped

These certainly are server cabinets alright…

Today marks the launch of CU Boulder’s shiny new research supercomputer, Alpine. Text of the university press release:

The celebratory event signals the official launch of CU Boulder’s third-generation high performance computing infrastructure, which is provisioned and available to campus researchers immediately.

On May 18, numerous leaders from on- and off-campus will gather to celebrate, introduce and officially launch the campus’s new high-performance computing infrastructure, dubbed “Alpine.”

Alpine replaces “RMACC Summit,” the previous infrastructure, which has been in use since 2017. Comparable to systems now in use at top peer institutions across the country, Alpine will improve upon RMACC Summit by providing cutting-edge hardware that enhances traditional High Performance Computing workloads, enables Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning workloads, and provides user-friendly access through tools such as Open OnDemand.

“Alpine is a modular system designed to meet the growing and rapidly evolving needs of our researchers,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Research Computing Shelley Knuth. “Alpine addresses our users’ requests for faster compute and more robust options for machine learning.”

Notable among the technical specifications that will make Alpine an invaluable tool in research computing for researchers, industry partners and others, Alpine boasts: 3rd generation AMD EPYC CPUs, which provide enhanced energy efficiency per cycle compared to the Intel Xeon E5-2680 CPUs on RMACC Summit; Nvidia A100 GPUs; AMD MI100 GPUs; HDR InfiniBand; and 25 Gb Ethernet.

The kick-off event on May 18 will celebrate the Alpine infrastructure being fully operational and allow the community to enjoy a 20-minute tour, including snacks, an introduction to Research Computing, and a tour of the supercomputer container. The opportunity is open to the public and free of charge, and CU Boulder Research Computing staff will be on site to answer questions. CU Boulder Chief Information Officer Marin Stanek, Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke, and Acting Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Massimo Ruzzene will offer remarks at 1:30 p.m.

In addition to the main launch event, Research Computing is offering a full slate of training and informational events the week of May 16—20.

Researchers seeking to use Research Computing resources, which includes not only the Alpine supercomputer, but also large scale data storage, cloud computing and secure research computing, are invited to visit the Research Computing website to learn about more training offerings, the community discussion forum, office hours and general contact information.

Alpine is funded by the Financial Futures strategic initiative.

This is the biggest project I have ever worked on. It was in the works months before I arrived but has consumed most of my professional time since September. It’s exciting that we can finally welcome our researchers to use it.

What’s next

Some personal news… 🙂

I have been at Earlham College for almost seven years, including my time as a student and as CS faculty. Today is my last day there.

It’s been an incredible place to grow as a person, deepen my skills, collaborate with talented people from all walks of life, and try to make the world a little bit better. I’ve seen a few generations of the community cycle through and watched us withstand everything up to and including a literal pandemic. I capped it with the trip of a lifetime, spending a month doing research in Iceland – on a project I hope to continue working on in the future.

To the Earlham Computer Science community in particular I owe a big thanks. I have had a supportive environment in which to learn and grow for virtually the entirety of those years. The value they’ve added to my life can’t be quantified. I am deeply grateful.

What’s next?

I am elated to announce that in mid-September I will go to work as a Research Computing HPC Cluster Administrator at the University of Colorado Boulder! I’m excited to take the skills I’ve built at Earlham and apply them at the scale of CU Boulder. Thanks to the many people who’ve helped make this opportunity possible.