Spur: Terascale Visualization at TACC

Kelly Gaither, Associate Director at TACC – University Texas Austin, talked today about Spur, a new scalable visualization system that is directly connected to Ranger, the 500 TFLOP Sun Constellation System at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) in Austin.

Spur, which was a joint collaboration between TACC and Sun, bolts the visualization system directly into the InfiniBand fat tree used to create the 65K-core Ranger cluster. This allows both compute and visualization to be used effectively together, essential for truly interactive data explorations.

Spur is actually a cluster of eight Sun compute nodes, each with four nVidia QuadroPlex GPUs installed. The overall system includes 32 GPUs, 128 cores, close to 1 TB RAM and can support up to 128 simultaneous Shared Visualization clients. Sun Grid Engine is used to schedule jobs onto Spur nodes.

Spur went into production in October and within a week was being used about 120 hours per week for interactive HPC visualization. Users who access Spur via the TeraGrid find the resource invaluable because the alternative–computing on Ranger and then transferring results back to their home site to visualize it just isn’t feasible due to the sheer volume of data involved. One user estimated it would take him a week to transfer the data to his local facility whereas with Spur he is able to compute at TACC, render the visualization at TACC using Spur, and then use Sun Shared Visualization software to display the visualization at his local site.

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