Published on 24-Mar-2011
Validated on 03 Jun 2013
"From a funding perspective to having the knowledge to get this high-performance computing environment in place, IBM really stepped up to the plate." - Dr. J. Richard Newman, chief information officer, Florida Institute of Technology
Florida Institute of Technology
IGF, Technical Computing, IT/infrastructure, Enabling Business Flexibility, Energy Efficiency, Green/Sustainability, Linux, Systems Management
Florida Tech is a leading private science and engineering university in Melbourne, FL, with degree programs in fields such as aeronautics, bioengineering and mathematics.
The school had attracted research proposals valued at over $35 million, but lacked the high-performance computing resources necessary to run sophisticated simulations and other compute-intensive tasks.
Florida Tech worked with BM Systems and Technology Group's University Alliances Team, along with IBM Systems Lab Services and IBM Global Financing, to deploy an IBM System x® iDataPlex™ dx360 M2 cluster as the centerpiece of the school’s high-performance computing center.
The IBM solution increases computing density by a factor of five, reduces power consumption by 40 percent, and provides a test environment for student development.
Located a few miles from the Kennedy Space Center, the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, was founded in 1958 specifically to provide advanced training for workers at the nation’s premier space launch facility. Called Florida Tech for short, the school has been recognized as one of the nation’s top private science and engineering universities by numerous publications, including US News & World Report.
Florida Tech offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in a variety of fields. With a current enrollment of about 10,000 students, Florida Tech has recently undergone a resurgence fueled by funded research proposals valued at over $35 million.
The need for high-performance research adds up
The computing demands brought on by various research projects had become more than the existing infrastructure could handle. A new high-performance computing infrastructure was needed to address these needs and help cement Florida Tech’s leadership position as a highly regarded research institution.
“The demand for high-performance computing resources had increased significantly, but we weren’t able to fulfill demand based on the technology we currently had,” says Dr. J. Richard Newman, Florida Tech’s chief information officer and director of the School of Computing.
Newman had several key requirements for a new high-performance computing center that would serve as a foundation for research growth. First, he needed a scalable solution that could also meet his data center’s limited cooling and power requirements while delivering high performance. Beyond hardware, the solution needed robust management components to prevent Newman and his small IT staff from being overburdened.
“The one thing we were really focusing on was getting the best solution in place that was adaptable. You always want to leave your environment open-ended so you can add on to it,” Newman says. “We didn’t necessarily have space that was designed for a massive amount of servers, either, particularly for a high-performance computing environment. That meant power consumption and cooling requirements were two other considerations.”
IBM System x iDataPlex delivers the right size at the right price
Newman and his team evaluated offerings from an array of providers, including Dell, HP, and IBM. He even considered building his own solution. But after a detailed review process, Newman chose a 48-node IBM System x iDataPlex dx360 M2 running the Red Hat Linux operating system for the school’s new high-performance computing center.
Combining the Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series and DDR-3 memory in an innovative, half-depth form factor designed to reduce the airflow required across components, the iDataPlex solution was the first of its kind to be installed in Florida. One of the big advantages iDataPlex had over competitors was its cooling capability. “If it wasn’t for the iDataPlex, we were going to have to change out our data center’s cooling mechanism,” Newman says.
“The IBM technology was superior compared to the other vendors that we evaluated,” Newman adds. “And one thing that I was really pleased with was how the IBM solution included some services to assist with the integration of implementing the system. That proved to be very, very helpful, and we were able to get the system up and running in a very efficient manner with IBM’s support.”
IBM solution goes beyond hardware
As attractive as the iDataPlex solution was, Newman says the implementation would not have been possible without the support of the IBM Systems and Technology Group's University Alliances Team, along with IBM Systems Lab Services, which provided ongoing technical input during the approximately six-month-long planning and implementation process. IBM Global Financing, meanwhile, provided much-needed funding assistance for the project.
Though it is still early in the process, Newman says the benefits of the implementation are already reverberating across the campus. The iDataPlex is being used to run various applications including a numerical computing environment and programming language, and to perform sophisticated computational analysis in areas such as protein-folding, genome sequencing, and advanced mathematics calculations. There are plans to migrate the school’s IBM Cognos® software, used for data reporting and business analytics, to the iDataPlex as well.
Florida Tech researchers are enjoying greater flexibility and efficiency with the iDataPlex’s ability to handle a range of graduate and undergraduate research projects. And the solution has resulted in a 40 percent improvement in power efficiency while accommodating a five-fold increase in computing density over the previous solution. In addition, the iDataPlex is easier to service and manage than the previous solution.
“We’re able to run numerous commercial applications that we weren’t able to run before because of limited computing resources,” Newman says. “From a student perspective, the iDataPlex allows us to actually establish both a production and a test environment where both graduate and undergraduate students can now test out their code on the newest technology. A lot of research institutions don’t necessarily have that capability.”
Looking toward a future with virtualization, cloud computing
Other IBM solutions on the Florida Tech campus include an IBM Power Systems™ server, which runs the school’s ERP software, and an IBM System Storage® DS4300 disk storage system. With the new HPC solution in place, Newman says future plans may include virtualizing the iDataPlex for cloud computing, as well as expanding the system to meet additional processing needs.
“I want to expand our virtualization efforts,” Newman says. “Ultimately, I’d like to have a virtualized pool of resources available at various Florida Tech locations. In addition, our high-bandwidth connectivity to the National LambdaRail and Internet2 provides significant opportunities to access national and international grids, clouds and other virtual resources.”
Newman gives credit to IBM for the project’s success. “This was probably one of the smoothest implementations that I’ve been a part of. A concern of mine was having all of the resources we needed, and from a funding perspective to having the knowledge to get this high-performance computing environment in place, IBM really stepped up to the plate.”
For more information
Contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner. Visit us at: ibm.com/systems/x
For more information about Florida Tech, visit: www.fit.edu
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
System x: iDataPlex dx360 M2
STG Lab Services: System x
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011 IBM Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America February 2011 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, iDataPlex and System x are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Intel, the Intel logo, and Xeon are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Offerings are subject to change, extension or withdrawal without notice. The information in this document is provided “as-is” without any warranty, either expressed or implied.