High-Performance Computing Cluster ‘Monsoon’ to Boost NAU’s Research Capacity

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"Monsoon" will benefit projects that require a large number of CPUs and memory.

The Office of the Vice President for Research has announced the availability of a new high-performance computing cluster to the NAU research community. Named Monsoon, the cluster brings a flood of research capacity to the university.

Monsoon will provide high-speed data transmission and high-capacity computing, two things we don’t have on campus at the scale of the cluster computer,” says Bill Grabe, Vice President for Research. “This will allow faculty to run bigger data analysis projects and have them completed in a reasonable amount of time.”

Acquired just as NAU was developing a new campus-wide Informatics and Computing Program, the cluster can be utilized to address complex research questions across many disciplines, including biology, climate science, behavioral sciences, humanities, education, and astronomy. “Monsoon is a capacity-type computer cluster designed to be flexible and handle a diverse set of research requirements,” explains Christopher Coffey, who has been hired to design, configure, set up, and manage the cluster.  “It has a low latency, high bandwidth interconnect enabling it to excel at both batch and parallel processing. It’s capable of 8 teraflops and has 200 times the CPUs and 1,250 times the memory of your typical desktop computer. Any research project that requires a large number of CPUs and memory can benefit.”

The opportunity to work with researchers from different fields across campus is particularly intriguing to Coffey. “I’m excited to aid and influence current campus research computing methodology to find new solutions that weren’t possible before Monsoon,” he says. “I hope the cluster will become an integral part of learning and discovery for the university’s research enterprise.”

Monsoon Can Help Expand Research at NAU

Vice President Grabe sees the purchase of the cluster as a multipronged approach to expanding research at the university. “In addition to expanding research capacity,” he says, “the high-performance computing provided by the cluster is a resource that will attract new faculty interested in innovative, data-intensive research.”

Coffey anticipates that configuration and testing will wrap up in time for campus-wide availability sometime in April 2014, which is also when the first of a series of workshops—aimed  at helping researchers learn more about the cluster and job-scheduling protocol—will be offered.

To learn more about the Monsoon cluster, please visit the High-Performance Computing page on the NAU Research website.