From Earlham Cluster Department
Dr. Stephen Wheat, Director
HPC Platform Office
Dr. Henry Neeman of the OU Supercomputing Center for Education & Research (OSCER) suggested that we write you about the following issue.
For the past several years, the National Computational Science Institute (www.computationalscience.org) has been teaching workshops on Computational Science & Engineering, and on Parallel & Cluster Computing, to hundreds of faculty across the United States. Our subteam has taken responsibility for teaching the Parallel & Cluster Computing workshops, including three held at the University of Oklahoma and co-sponsored by OSCER, hosted by Dr. Neeman. He believes that there may be substantial synergy between our goals and Intel's.
Recently we have been tasked by the SuperComputing conference series to design and implement the education program for the SC07-SC09 conferences. As you may be aware, the overwhelming majority of the High Performance Computing (HPC) resources deployed currently are dedicated to research rather than education -- yet the nation faces a critical shortage of HPC expertise, largely because of the lack of a broad enough base of university faculty trained in HPC pedagogy.
To address this situation, our group spends a significant portion of our time designing and implementing software and hardware solutions to support teaching parallel and cluster computing and CSE. The Bootable Cluster CD (http://bccd.cs.uni.edu) and Little-Fe (http://cluster.earlham.edu/projects.html) are two manifestations of our work. The BCCD is a live CD that transforms an x86 based lab into an ad-hoc computational cluster. Little-Fe is an inexpensive, portable, 4-8 node computational cluster. The principle cost component of the Little-Fe design is the motherboard and CPUs. Our design is based on small form-factor motherboards, such as the Intel D945GPMLKR Media Series boards.
In order to support computational science curriculum development and delivery we are gearing-up to build a number of Little-Fe units, approximately 20, for use by science faculty across the country. These faculty members, working with their undergraduate student researchers, will develop curriculum modules and deliver workshops and presentations in a variety of venues. The curriculum and workshops are preparatory activities for the education program we are implementing for SC07-SC09.
Because of financial considerations, we currently find ourselves forced to use low cost non-Intel components in our Little-Fe units. However, we are aware that Intel has been a longtime supporter of HPC research and education, and that you in particular have been an advocate for precisely the kind of work that our team has been pursuing.
In light of these points, we wonder if Intel might be interested in either donating a number of these boards and CPUs or permitting us to purchase them at a discount? In exchange we could provide Intel with appropriate credit on both the physical units and in our articles about the project.
Thank-you for your time.