Why I love my job #1: High Throughput Computing

March 17th, 2011 | Categories: Condor, walking randomly | Tags:

Part of my job at the University of Manchester is to help support the use of High Throughput Computing (HTC) services.  I am part of a team that works within Manchester’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (Physics,Chemistry,Maths,Engineering,Computer Science,Earth Sciences) but we don’t just work with ‘our’ schools; we also collaborate with teams from all over the University along with the central Research Support team.

For example, say you are a University of Manchester researcher and have written a monte-carlo simulation in MATLAB where a typical run takes 5 hours to complete. In order to get good results you might want to run this simulation 1000 times which is going to take your desktop machine quite a while; about 7 months in fact! You can either wait for 7 months or you can contact us for assistance. We’ll then do the following for you:

  • Attempt to optimise your MATLAB code. Recent speed-ups range from 10% to 20,000%
  • Give you access to our Condor pool (currently peaking at 1600 processor cores, more expected in the near future)
  • Assist you in modifying your code and writing script wrappers to make best use of those 1600 cores.
  • If appropriate, put you in touch with colleagues who support traditional HPC (High Performance Computing) supercomputers, GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) and similar technology.

Once we’ve done our bit, you throw your code at our Condor pool and get your results in less than an evening! Obviously we are not confined to MATLAB; we’ve also assisted users of Python, Mathematica, C, FORTRAN, Amber, Morphy and many more.  Our job is to help researchers do research more quickly!

For a mathy science geek with a penchant for mathematical software it really doesn’t get much better than this!  I get to play with high end hardware and the latest software, I get to learn new areas of science and mathematics and I get to work with world-leading experts in a multitude of fields.  More importantly, I get to make a real difference.

Yep, this is one part of my job that I really love.  Expect to see more articles on High Throughput Computing and technologies such as Condor on WalkingRandomly in the very near future.

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