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New Data Analysis, Mathematics and Visual Analytics Server Enters Production

August 1, 2005

In mid-August, NERSC put into production a new server specifically tailored to interactive visualization and data analysis work.  The 32-processor SGI Altix, called DaVinci, offers interactive access to large amounts of large memory and high performance I/O capabilities typically required to analyze the large datasets produced by the NERSC high performance computing systems (jacquard and seaborg).

“With its 192 gigabytes of RAM and 25 terabytes of disk, DaVinci’s balance is biased toward memory and I/), which is different from the other systems at NERSC,” said John Shalf of LBNL’s Visualization Group. “This design gives us expanded capabilities for data analysis and analytics, along with interactive visualization.DaVinci has six gigabytes of memory per processor, compared to one gigbyte per processor on Seaborg and four gigabytes on the new Linux Networx cluster, Jacquard. Users can get interactive access to all 192Gigabytes of memory from a single application whereas on the interactive limits on production NERSC supercomputing systems restrict interactive tasks to a far smaller amount of memory.

With DaVinci now in production, NERSC will retire the previous visualization server, Escher, on Sept. 15. The new server will also replace Newton, the math server.The new server will run a number of visualization, statistics and mathematics applications including IDL, Mathematica, Star-P (a parallel implementation of MatLab), AVS/Express, LLNL VisIT (a parallel visualization application), and CEI Ensight. Many users depend on IDL and matlab to process or reorganize data to preparation for visualization.  The large memory will particularly benefit these types of jobs, Shalf said.

While DaVinci will be available for interactive use by day, by night the system will be set up to run batch jobs, especially those jobs that are data intensive.DaVinci is already connected to the HPSS and ESnet networks at NERSC by two independent 10 gigabit Ethernet connections and is expected to be integrated in the Facility Wide File Sharing System later this year.

About NERSC and Berkeley Lab
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that serves as the primary high-performance computing center for scientific research sponsored by the Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the NERSC Center serves more than 7,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities researching a wide range of problems in combustion, climate modeling, fusion energy, materials science, physics, chemistry, computational biology, and other disciplines. Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy. »Learn more about computing sciences at Berkeley Lab.