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2013/06/05

Flexible for research

Darmstadt University inaugurates pioneering high-performance computer

The Technical University Darmstadt has officially inaugurated its new “Lichtenberg” high performance computer. In a new building on the “Lichtwiese Campus” the computer will solve problems in a few hours, for which a normal office computer would take months or more, if he could cope with it at all.

Prof. Dr. Christian Bischof, head of the university computer center, shows the new Lichtenberg-high-performance computer of the TU Darmstadt. Picture: Jan Ehlers
Prof. Dr. Christian Bischof, head of the university computer center, shows the new Lichtenberg-high-performance computer of the TU Darmstadt. Picture: Jan Ehlers

Improving weather forecasts, developing fuel-efficient cars, understanding learning processes in the brain, creating new materials: The tasks that need powerful computers are manifold. Similarly diverse are the programs that researchers use in their demanding simulations and calculations.

Therefore, the Lichtenberg-high-performance computer at TU Darmstadt, named after the universal scholar Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), combines different computer architectures to make use of the various programs efficiently with their complex algorithms.

First part of the high-performance computer in operation

Martina Koederitz, General Manager of IBM Germany GmbH and Prof. Dr. Hans Jürgen Prömel, President of the TU Darmstadt.
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Martina Koederitz, General Manager of IBM Germany GmbH and Prof. Dr. Hans Jürgen Prömel, President of the TU Darmstadt.

Eva Kühne-Hörmann, Hessian Minister of Science and Art, officially launched together with Financial Secretary Prof. Dr. Luise Hölscher the first part of the computer with 800 compute nodes in operation. In December 2014, the computing complex will be extended. The budgeted cost of the project are 15 million euros. The Federal Government and the State of Hesse bear this cost each in half, based on Article 91b of the German constitutional law.

Minister Kühne-Hörmann pointed out that alongside the investment into the computer seven million euros have been invested into the building withing the Hessian HEUREKA university construction program. “The building and the computer are a further evidence of the research strength of the TU Darmstadt.” With the commissioning of this high-performance computer, a total of more than 23 million euros have been invested in high-performance computing hardware to Hessian university locations in the past four years, she added. “This shows that High Performance Computing Research in Hesse is recognized as excellent in national competition.”

“Additional module for excellence”

Financial Secretary Hoelscher praised the investment and pointed out that the country undertook special efforts to constantly develop teaching and research at an internationally competitive standard:. “With the high performance computer, TU Darmstadt receives an additional module for excellence” The new building fulfills the latest demands for efficiency and sustainability.

“The new high-performance computer enables cutting-edge scientific research that is efficient, future-oriented and economically relevant,” says Professor Dr. Hans Jürgen Prömel, President of the Technical University of Darmstadt. “I am pleased that we can provide a pioneering computer in an energetically optimized building available to the scientists at the TU Darmstadt in Hesse and other research institutions.”

Ready for any assignment

Rechnerschränke im Lichtenberg-Hochleistungsrechner. Bild: Jan Ehlers
The high-performance computer has an energy-saving and versatile architecture. Picture: Jan Ehlers

The Lichtenberg-high-performance computer at TU Darmstadt replaces an older computer, installed in 2002. Its power exceeds already in the first stage the old system by 30 times. Moreover, the Computer made by IBM has an energy-saving and versatile architecture: On the one hand it contains compute nodes for applications that require high computing power. On the other hand, computing nodes are available for tasks that require a lot of memory and quick access to it. There are computing nodes for applications that benefit from special arithmetic accelerators.

The various computer systems not only support the efficient execution of programs on the appropriate architecture for them. They also support the development of new programs for future parallel computers, because a developer can use the algorithms tailored to the programming model on the right architecture, optimizing productivity in software development.

“In the future, in addition to the performance of a program, the productivity in software development is becoming more important. The interesting question is how long it takes for a scientific idea to turn into an executable program, which is verified and documented, because the life of a program usually includes several generations of computers, especially in complex engineering applications, ”explains Professor Christian Bischof, head of the university computer center at the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Efficient cooling and heating

The building in which the computer is located, is also new – it resembles a giant computer case. The building permits to work in most parts of the year with free cooling. Then, the refrigerating machine will remain off and the water that cools the computer is cooled only by the heat exchanger on the roof again. This saves energy. During cold periods, the heat of the machine heats the building.

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