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Research brief

For immediate use

Jan. 31, 2007

Upgrade puts UNC-Chapel Hill’s Topsail
among top 20 supercomputers worldwide

An upgrade of Topsail, the Dell research computing cluster at UNC-Chapel Hill, will place it among the top 20 supercomputers worldwide according to the most recent Top500 computer rankings. Currently, Topsail has a computational capability of 6.252 teraflops. With the upgrade, Topsail’s computational capability will exceed 20 teraflops – more than 20 trillion calculations per second.

The upgrade will replace each of Topsail’s 520 processing blades, currently configured with two processors per blade.  Each new blade will have eight processors, based on two quad core “Clovertown” Intel chips, which are expected to nearly quadruple performance capability.  Each new blade will also have 12 gigabytes (GB) of memory, compared with the current four GB of memory per blade, simplifying analysis of rapidly growing scientific data.      

“World class research requires world class research computing,” said Dr. Daniel A. Reed, vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer at UNC-Chapel Hill and Chancellor’s Eminent Professor.  “This upgrade is part of our continuing enhancement of Carolina’s research capability, accelerating discovery in chemistry, genetics, biophysics, medicine, and the environmental and social sciences and improving the quality of life for Carolina’s citizens.”

With this upgrade, Topsail’s remaining storage and networking infrastructure will remain in use, lowering the total cost and minimizing the time needed for the upgrade. Equipment will be delivered in February and planning for installation and testing timelines is underway.

“Computing is now the third pillar of discovery, complementing theory and experiment.  In a knowledge economy, those with the best tools have a competitive advantage,” Reed said.
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Information Technology Services contact: Beth Milbank, (919) 843-9201 or