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XSEDE Campus Bridging: Building for the future at Southern Illinois University

Project Leads: Eric Coulter, Barbara Hallock

Divisions/Groups who enabled highlight:  UITS Research Technologies' Campus Bridging and Research Infrastructure (CBRI)

Funding: National Science Foundation, ACI-1053575

BigDog at SIU
Figure 1. Behind the curtain -- Rustomji âGi❠Vania, left, deputy director of Information Technology and Research Computing and Cyberinfrastructure at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, examines a component of a new mid-range supercomputer being assembled on campus. Made up of 40 new clustered computers and select existing equipment, the new machine will give researchers better access to high-powered computing resources and data storage. It will go online this month. Pictured with Vania are graduate assistants Dedeepya Boddu, right, and Kranthi Chintala, center. (Photo by Steve Buhman, Photo and caption from:

XSEDE Campus Bridging staff assisted in a rebuild of the BigDog Cisco cluster at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, IL. BigDog was previously running an older version of the XCBC (XSEDE-Compatible Basic Cluster) package, but did not have sufficient hardware for the needs of SIU research computing. The new upgrade included 70TB of storage on the front-end machine, and two GPU nodes with dual NVIDIA Tesla K40 cards. After a little over a week of work, the machine was up and running with Rocks 6.2, and the XSEDE XCBC software roll. The GPU nodes were finally fully supported with the new build. The final build has forty compute nodes with 64GB of RAM and twenty cores each, giving the entire cluster a theoretical max of 34.7 TeraFLOPS.

BigDog is used by researchers in material science, computer science, and biology, as well as other disciplines at SIU. The acts of upgrading the cluster, getting all nodes working, and getting the GPUs working allow the scientists to complete their research quicker and allow more computationally intense research to be done, particularly for the computer science department. The addition of more local storage was also vital for researchers in biology.

As part of its Campus Bridging effort, the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) distributes a custom Rocks roll designed to minimize the complexity of building XSEDE-compatible Linux clusters for use by the US open science community. The XSEDE Rocks roll provides the widely used, open-source, scientific, mathematical, and visualization packages needed to convert a "bare-bones" Rocks cluster into an XCBC, a high-performance parallel computing cluster that's compatible with XSEDE digital services.

To learn how Campus Bridging can enable a cluster system or cluster upgrade on your campus visit:

The Campus Bridging and Research Infrastructure division of PTI provides a number of IT services in direct support of scientific discovery, including data collection and processing for the Operation IceBridge project.

For information about the Pervasive Technology Institute, the Research Technologies Division of UITS, and IU’s advanced cyberinfrastructure see