A Visit to the UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing

One of my students hooked up our class with a visit to UNM CARC. (Thanks Hector!) CARC is the UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing. Most people pronounce it “Car-See,” which leads all too quickly to “the Car Center,” which is a poke at the fact that the center operates in the old Galles Chevrolet building.

Despite the building’s provenance, CARC is home to some serious supercomputer horsepower. Check out their website at http://www.hpc.unm.edu, and their available local firepower at http://www.hpc.unm.edu/systems-table.

What makes this operation really crackle is its gateway to Encanto, the Intel supercomputer housed at Intel’s Rio Rancho plant. (See http://newmexicosupercomputer.com/encanto.html.) The Encanto gateway project will bring 33 gateways to locations across New Mexico, which offers the fascinating prospect of supercomputer access for the common person. Or at least the common person with “embarrassingly parallel” computing requirements.

Encanto is aimed squarely at business uses. One of the obvious ones, demonstrated to us by Tim Thomas and center director Dr. Susan Atlas, is graphical rendering. They showed us 3D videos from several projects, which are in fact a blast to watch with the Active 3D glasses.

But the center is also active seeking UNM departments, faculty and graduate students who can put their clusters to work. They’re primarily focusing on C, C++ or Java code that can fork endless threads, but my interest is piqued by the opportunities this could offer my BRINM associates at the Mind Research Network.

This group melds MRI and MEG images using a monstrous MatLab process, resulting in video of the brain’s electronic workings. You can bet this is not simple stuff. But MatLab is a single-threaded application, so I’m thinking about code to parse the two sets of images (MRI and MEG) into zones, submit multiple simultaneous jobs, and render outputs that could be stitched back together. Or something like that.

In the mean time, if you’ve got the least excuse, I suggest you arrange for a visit to CARC. The people are nice, and the hardware is ridiculously awesome.

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