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A Lenovo, Intel-powered supercomputing is helping combat climate change

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Climate change is a real and present danger to life on earth, so understanding its effects and how we can combat them is a key focus for scientists around the world. Thankfully, technology is helping model the future, with a supercomputer in Austria powered by Lenovo and Intel technology currently helping provide answers to some of the most difficult scientific questions of our time. 

The Vienna Scientific Cluster-4 (VSC-4) is Austria’s most powerful supercomputer, and is built on Lenovo ThinkSystem servers which use Intel’s second-generation Xeon Scalable processors. These servers are currently being utilised by more than 300 research projects around Austria. Projects include predicting the impact of climate change to rivers and flood areas; helping nations prepare for changing weather patterns; understanding how certain drugs react with proteins in the human body to improve medicine development; and simulating early universe situations following the Big Bang.

The VSC itself is a consortium of five major Austrian universities: TU Wien; the University of Vienna; the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna; the Graz University of Technology; and the University of Innsbruck. Their collaboration enables them to procure and operate bigger, more powerful supercomputers for their researchers than would be possible individually, as demand for HPC resources has increased significantly in recent years.

Like its predecessors, VSC-4 will be used to support projects wishing to run big data analytics and machine learning jobs to advance their research. The requests have also become more diverse and wide-ranging, including non-traditional users in areas such as biotechnology, social sciences and humanities.  

Lenovo worked with the VSC-4 team to provide Lenovo ThinkSystem SD650 servers with its third-generation of Direct Water-Cooling technology, powered by second-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors. The built-in water-cooling technology removes approximately 90% of the heat from the system, dramatically reducing the need for air cooling by fans, and cutting energy costs while increasing performance.

A cluster comprised of 790 ThinkSystem SD650 nodes was implemented featuring 37,920 Intel Xeon Scalable processor cores with Intel DL Boost, Intel’s built-in AI acceleration technology. The servers are connected by 100 GB/sec Intel Omni-Path Architecture, a high-speed interconnect that increases application performance, improves load balancing and maximizes scalability.

The new VSC-4 became the first supercomputer in Austria to break the petaflop (PFLOP) barrier, achieving a peak performance of 3.7 PFLOPS (2.7 PFLOPS in continuous operation) as measured on the Linpack benchmark. It is the country’s largest HPC installation and ranks 93rd in the November 2019 TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

“VSC-4 is four times more powerful than its predecessor, and with Lenovo’s direct water-cooling technology we’re saving energy and costs too. We’re so pleased with the results because we now have a truly world-class supercomputer that will be at the heart of the Austrian research community for years to come,” said Professor Herbert Störi, scientific project leader, Vienna Scientific Cluster. 

“The new VSC-4 system gives the European research community a powerful new resource for exploration, innovation and discovery,” said Trish Damkroger, vice president and general manager of the Extreme Computing Organisation at Intel.

“With our latest Intel Xeon Scalable processors and Omni-Path fabric, VSC-4 is ready to take on the most demanding tasks at the convergence of HPC and Artificial Intelligence.”

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