Computer simulation of a star disrupted by a black holeBoston, MA — The University of California, Santa Cruz, (UCSC) is advancing astrophysics research using a high-performance storage solution — Dell | Terascala HPC Storage Solution (DT-HSS) — part of Hyades, the university’s powerful astrophysics supercomputer installed in 2013.

Housed in the Communications Building, Hyades consists of 376 Intel Sandy Bridge Xeon CPUs (3008 x64 cores in total), 8 Nvidia K20 GPU computing accelerators, 2 Intel Xeon Phi 5110P accelerators, 13 Terabytes of memory, and a peak speed of 60 Teraflops. The system includes the Dell | Terascala HPC Storage Solution (DT-HSS) consisting of 192 TBs of fast scratch storage running the Lustre file system.

“State-of-the-art computational resources have been pivotal in making UCSC one of the nation’s leading centers for research in numerical astrophysics and planetary science,” explained Shawfeng Dong, Associate Project Scientist and HPC System Administrator at UCSC. “Hyades dramatically increases our ability to address some of the most fundamental scientific questions of our time.”

The supercomputer is being used by the Theoretical Astrophysics at Santa Cruz (TASC) group, which includes approximately 20 faculty and more than 50 postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in four departments including: Applied Math and Statistics, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Physics. Researchers in these departments are using Hyades to model exploding stars, black holes, magnetic fields, planet formation, and the evolution of galaxies.

According to Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Director of TASC at UCSC, the high-performance Hyades cluster is vital to pursuing cutting edge research. “Computer simulations help us to understand astrophysical phenomena, which are not amenable to experimental studies,” explained Ramirez-Ruiz. “It makes non-visible astronomy possible.”

Ramirez-Ruiz and his team of students use computer simulations to explore some of the most extraordinary events in the universe, such as planet formation or the destruction of a star by a black hole. “When a star travels too close to a black hole, powerful tidal forces stretch the star and then rip it apart before it is digested by the black hole,” continued Ramirez-Ruiz. “To simulate this process, we employ a great deal of computational predictive analysis including radiation hydrodynamics.”

Ramirez-Ruiz explained that UCSC’s goal is to make Hyades available not only to faculty and graduate students but also to undergraduate students and even local community college students. “We see ourselves as a center for excellence, helping to train students in using high-performance computing resources to solve scientific problems. These skills will help them get recruited by top universities and companies after graduation.”

Dell and Terascala provide a high-performance storage appliance for UCSC that manages everything including servers, network, storage and file system components. Workload and workflow performance tuning is done through Terascala’s TeraOS management platform.

“We are the only Lustre-based platform that integrates and manages all of those components into a turnkey storage appliance with seamless Lustre integration that is easily scalable and highly available,” concluded Steve Butler, CEO at Terascala. "Terascala is pleased to be part of a high-performance system that is helping to advance research at UCSC.”