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Supercomputing at UCSB

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UCSB offers access to numerous High-Performance Computing (HPC) resources to its academic community. While the Center for Scientific Computing (CSC, http://csc.cnsi.ucsb.edu), which is part of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), provides a broad range of on-campus resources, such as sponsoring classes, tutorials, and individual training in general Unix/Linux, compiling, and optimization of code, the Office of Information Technology's Supercomputing Division helps UCSB faculty, researchers, and students access and use the HPC resources available from national supercomputing facilities.

Traditionally, computing resources at UCSB have been highly scattered on campus, with many departments managing their own infrastructure and most of the time not interacting with other similar enterprises. A big step towards combining resources for more efficient use and power came from CSC, and the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL). The joint facility now offers several computer clusters which sum up to a significant firepower and many of the nodes are open to all researchers on campus.

The appointment of Kadir Diri as the new campus supercomputing consultant in place of retired Stefan Boeriu, coincides with a new effort to bridge the local CSC and national computing resources available to the UCSB community. Kadir obtained his PhD in computational chemistry in 2007 from the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a research scientist in the department of chemistry at the University of Southern California, where he continued his research using electronic structure methods while also maintaining the computer cluster and the research/educational activities of the iOpenShell computational center, before joining OIT last August.

Through collaboration with CSC's IT Director Paul Weakliem, the supercomputing consultant is now a key position in the effort of making the transition of the local computing facilities users who need more firepower to much larger supercomputers across the nation. UCSB's main two programs that provide access to such resources are TAPP (Triton Affiliates and Partners Program: http://www.sdsc.edu/us/tapp) and XSEDE's (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment: https://www.xsede.org) Campus Champion program.

The TAPP program offers cost-effective computing resources to University of California researchers and affiliates through the Triton Resource at San Diego Supercomputing Center. UCSB purchases an annual block of time which is then allocated to individuals, research groups, and classes. Triton resource is ideal for classes and novice users, or researchers who want to quickly get started on projects with preliminary calculations, due to the short wait times in obtaining access to the computing facilities. The convenience of not having to write lengthy proposals is another plus.

The second program through which UCSB offers supercomputing facilities, XSEDE (the former TeraGrid), is the most powerful and advanced collection of computing resources and services in the world. It is a network of several institutions across the country offering allocations on their machines through the support of the National Science Foundation. As a member of XSEDE's Campus Champions program, UCSB has an annual allocation totaling about 250,000 hours on different supercomputers and direct access to XSEDE's staff.

OIT's supercomputing services also include consultation on planning and architecture, help with establishing accounts, user and system support, and training through various one-on-one meetings or seminars and workshops featuring supercomputing specialists as guest speakers. In addition, help with individual applications for bigger XSEDE grants is also provided.