The HPC Pool was established back in early 2019 and was delivered through funding from the Research Lifecycle Programme (RLP). The HPC Pool consists of 4096 CPU cores of InfiniBand-connected compute resource designed for 'true' High Performance Computing work. The resource is currently free to use for any researcher who has a legitimate HPC need.
The service has proved to be extremely popular, enabling users of our existing local compute platforms such as the Computational Shared Facility (CSF), to run larger jobs whilst also acting as a catalyst in attracting new users to the world of HPC. In order to gauge reaction from the user community about the HPC Pool, we took the opportunity late last year to survey current users to gather feedback on a range of topics.
The survey was split into two parts, the first part was focused on Academic outputs and future requirements, this was aimed at PIs (Principal Investigator) or a nominated deputy of their choosing. The second part was focused on User experience, e.g., levels of satisfaction, provision of support, what works well, what needs to be improved, in total we received 62 responses, 24 of those where from PIs or a nominated deputy.
Now that the survey is closed, and the results are in it is clear the HPC Pool has played a vital role in several research projects being carried out across the University. Overall, the feedback was incredibly positive and we present some highlight below.
- 79% of PIs responded 'No' when asked whether their group could have done its research without access to the HPC Pool.
- When asked how likely they would recommend the HPC Pool to other UoM researchers 96% of PIs responded, 'Extremely Likely'.
- 96% of users were either extremely or somewhat satisfied with the HPC Pool.
- 93% of users felt that the HPC Pool played an important role in ongoing or completed research.
- The HPC Pool has been acknowledged in several publications including: Garrett, A.M., & Race, C.P. (2021). Segregation of Ni and Si to coherent bcc Fe-Cu interfaces from density functional theory. Journal of Nuclear Materials Vol. 556 and Flint, T.F., Smith, M.C. & Shanthraj (2021). P. Magneto-hydrodynamics of multi-phase flows in heterogeneous systems with large property gradients. Sci Rep 11, 18998.
There were also several free text fields where respondents could add comments relating to the HPC Pool, see below for some of those comments.
"We are a materials modelling group that makes heavy use of density-functional theory calculations. The HPC Pool provides important local resources for medium-to-large jobs, which can support smaller research projects and/or applications for time on national (Tier 0/Tier 1) facilities. "
"Although UoM has provided quite wide-ranging compute facilities (CSF2/3/4) to researchers, this is the first instance of a "true" HPC facility, where very large jobs of 256+ cores can be submitted. Being part of the RI ecosystem is a significant benefit, since it reduces the administrative burden and barrier to entry that typically comes with external facilities. Thus, it enables research computations that might not have been possible otherwise, or that might have been run on less suitable hardware"
“Since it is embedded within the CSF ecosystem (i.e., same login node/RDS etc.) it has a very low barrier to entry. The documentation is easy to follow and provides good concrete examples of how to use each software.”
A testament to the HPC Pool’s popularity was that one of the main pieces of feedback we received was in relation to long queue times. This is something we are acutely aware of and actively manage to ensure maximum throughput and fair use for all. However it also demonstrates a requirement to increase the available resources to better meet the current and growing demand. Indeed, when asked about how to improve the service the ability to access more resources was a common request.
Work will begin soon on a business case for the second Research Lifecycle Programme (RLP2) business case requesting further strategic investment in research focussed systems and business processes with an anticipated start date of 2023. The information collected from this survey will be an essential source of information that is fed into RLP2. For that reason, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all users who filled out the survey - thank you!
If you would like to engage with the Research Lifecycle Programme 2 and help shape the future of research support and infrastructure over the next few years, we encourage you to attend workshopsthat are taking place during March 2022 or to complete the RLP2 survey by the 30th March 2022.
If you think the HPC Pool would be a useful resource for your research or would like to know more about it or any other service provided by Research IT, feel free to send us an email at the following address firstname.lastname@example.org.