Powering Scientific Research with Dell EMC and AMD

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The Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing at Oregon State University capitalizes on Dell EMC PowerEdge servers with AMD processors in a highly heterogeneous HPC research environment.

Researchers affiliated with the Oregon State University Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (CGRB) are on a perpetual quest for scientific discovery. The CGRB facilitates genome-enabled and data-driven research in the life and environmental sciences at OSU and across the state to solve really big problems — like improving health, making better use of natural and agricultural resources, understanding our global environment, and developing new bio-based products and energy sources.

In today’s era of ever-bigger data, this kind of research invariably requires leading-edge computational power, which the CGRB delivers to its users via a continually evolving high performance computing environment. This highly heterogeneous environment includes all kinds of Dell EMC products, including multiple server models with AMD EPYC™ processors, along with many legacy servers based on AMD Opteron™ processors. Overall, AMD-based systems from Dell EMC account for about 70 percent of the CGRB’s server infrastructure.

So why the big focus on systems from Dell EMC with AMD processors? In a recent Dell EMC case study, Christopher Sullivan, assistant director for biocomputing at the CGRB, cites several reasons. Let’s walk through some of the big ones.

Versatility

For starters, the CGRB likes the “outstanding configuration flexibility” and “adaptable architecture” of the Dell EMC PowerEdge™ R7425 server, Sullivan says. These characteristics allow the CGRB to tailor the system to the needs of diverse workloads — from quantum mechanical simulations and workloads that involve gene expression and meta-genomics to studies of species diversity in tropical forests. These workloads typically run on PowerEdge servers that incorporate AMD EPYC 7601 and 7551 processors.

Performance

In applications in which the memory-to-thread ratio is important, the AMD EPYC processors are incorporated in systems with a terabyte of RAM, varying amounts of solid-state disk and fast 40Gb networking cards.

“The memory-to-thread ratio is super important, and that is how we keep the systems hopped up,” Sullivan says. With some of these threaded workloads, the CGRB found that the AMD EPYC processor greatly outpaced the performance of Intel processors, according to Sullivan.

Reliability

Reliability is another important factor in the selection of Dell EMC hardware, according to Sullivan.

“We test every piece of hardware, believe it or not,” he says. “Dell EMC is the only server that can hold up to the type of work that we are pounding on these boxes. Other boxes will fail, and we will end up with them down.”

This legendary Dell EMC reliability is a huge value proposition for people whose research depends on the availability of the HPC systems that are running their workloads.

The bottom line

For the CGRB, the big value-add that comes with Dell EMC hardware is more uptime and great performance for the mission-critical systems that power the diverse research workloads the Center runs around the clock.

“We look at our Dell servers as being crucial to our uptime,” Sullivan says. “They keep us going.”

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