The new supercomputer Lonestar6 puts TACC at the forefront of science and technology


The way companies, government agencies and other institutions use computing resources has changed noticeably.

Technologies such as Edge and 5G are increasingly decentralizing the work and the computing power it requires. And the application and infusion of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning mean there is strong demand for more sophisticated, complicated computing environments.

It’s this demand that prompted the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin to release its Lonestar6 supercomputer last November. Dell Technologies Inc. and AMD’s system will help scientists compute and compete at the forefront of science and technology. The supercomputer will support University of Texas Research Cyberinfrastructure initiatives including COVID-19 research and drug discovery, hurricane modelling, wind energy and dark energy research.

“Lonestar6 is a Dell Technologies system that we developed with TACC,” said Rajesh Pohani (pictured left), vice president of PowerEdge & Core compute portfolio management at Dell. “It consists of more than 800 Dell PowerEdge 6525 servers powered by 3rd Gen AMD EPYC processors.”

Pohani and Dan Stanzione (pictured right), Executive Director of TACC, joined John Furrier, presenter of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s live streaming studio, for a digital CUBE talk. They discussed the Dell/TACC partnership, the new technologies created by the partnership and how these innovations are solving specific public and private sector problems. (*Disclosure below.)

Explore the supercomputer in detail

While most people know Dell for its consumer hardware products, software, and solutions, the company’s collaborations with organizations like TACC aren’t as well known. Under the umbrella of the University of Texas at Austin, TACC conducts a diverse range of open science research and develops new multipurpose technologies.

“We build large supercomputers, data systems and AI systems to support open science research,” said Stanzione. “And we’re funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, so we support research projects in all branches of science, across the country and around the world. In fact, we currently have several thousand projects running.”

Advances like Lonestar6, which is currently being implemented at TACC, could mean huge advances in areas such as quantum mechanics, astrophysics, photovoltaics and biological research. In the short term, however, it helps solve “urgent computing” use cases.

“This is one of the drivers of Lonestar and some other recent additions,” explained Stanzione. “And these are things like a hurricane coming, where exactly is it going to land? Can we refine the area where there will be either strong winds or storm surges? Can we assess the damage afterwards using digital images? Can we direct first responders to the optimal routes? And lately a lot, as you can imagine, around COVID. In 2020, we shifted almost a third of our resources to do full-time COVID work.”

The system can perform three quadrillion operations per second (or three PetaFLOPs). According to Stanzione, that power is currently being put to good use in alternative sectors.

“There’s also all our traditional, simulation-based workloads and materials and digital twins for aircraft and aircraft design, more efficient combustion in more efficient photovoltaic materials or photovoltaic materials without as much lead and things like that.”

Recent advances in computing power are attracting other fields, like biology, to become more computational, according to Pohani. However, the human component should not be ignored.

“I think the trick is going to be not just expanding the computation, but also the software and the people involved, because we have amazing capabilities that we can bring to fruition,” he said. “We don’t have enough people to meet them all at once. And that’s probably going to be the next frontier for expanding both our AI and simulation capabilities…the human element of it.”

Watch the full video interview below and be sure to check out more CUBE talks from SiliconANGLE and theCUBE. (*Disclosure: This segment is sponsored by Dell Technologies Inc. Neither Dell nor any other sponsors have editorial control over the content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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