Texas A&M Supercomputer Among Fastest In The World

COLLEGE STATION, June 16, 2010 — Supercomputing at Texas A&M University is faster than ever and the new speed is being used in support of a variety of scientific and medical research projects, including the sequencing of DNA in a variety of infectious diseases, with a current focus on new potentially life-saving drugs to fight tuberculosis.

Texas A&M’s new supercomputer, dubbed Eos, is an IBM 2592-core iDataPlex cluster system that provides a five-fold increase over the computational capacity of its predecessor, Hydra. Installed earlier this year, the new supercomputer at Texas A&M is ranked the 420th fastest in the world, according to the Top500 list released at this year’s International Supercomputing Conference that includes an array of computers operated by governmental agencies and cutting-edge laboratories around the globe, as well as by a host of corporate conglomerates.

Spiros Vellas, head of the Texas A&M University supercomputing facility, said the additional computing power provided by Eos significantly enhances his operation’s ability to assist researchers — both on and off campus — in their quests that rely on time-sensitive responses.

“Through our Advanced User Projects initiative, we’ve collaborated closely with research groups across campus to speed up the computational components of their research. Our work with bioinformatics groups on campus is one example of projects that have boosted the pace of research.”

Coupled with special Texas A&M-built software, the university’s supercomputer is making possible the tuberculosis DNA sequencing in a matter of hours rather than days, thus playing a key role in combating the disease that still kills about two million people a year throughout the world. Put another way, a new case is diagnosed every two seconds.

Raffaele Montuoro, a computational scientist at Texas A&M’s supercomputing facility, built the software package called the “parallel Genome Analysis Pipeline” (pGAP) that is making possible the quick analysis of the genome of mutated strains of tuberculosis.

“We have the software that nobody else has to do this work. Our systems have the performance we need to rapidly process data while GPFS (IBM’s General Parallel File System) prevents bottlenecks,” Montuoro notes.

“My software can be used to noticeably increase productivity in research on new drugs to fight life-threatening disease, where pathogenic bacteria may produce drug-resistant strains after rapidly mutating,” he adds.

Montuoro points out his DNA sequencing work was conducted using Hydra, and the availability now of Eos presents new opportunities for DNA sequencing advancement and other complex studies requiring high-speed computational assistance.

Texas A&M’s supercomputer and the unique software are being used in support of tuberculosis research conducted by Texas A&M Prof. James Sacchettini, holder of the university’s prestigious Wolfe-Welch Chair in Science, director of the university’s Center for Structural Biology and professor of biochemistry, biophysics and chemistry. The center he directs also studies Alzheimer’s disease, malaria and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

IBM officials, taking special interest in how Texas A&M’s IBM supercomputer and Montuoro’s software contribute to Sacchettini’s TB research, prepared and distributed an article in cooperation with Texas A&M’s supercomputing facility staff. The article can be viewed at http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/31795.wss.

Contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4662


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