New Jersey’s largest supercomputer–considered one of the largest computing systems in the world–was quietly shut down a month ago by Rutgers University just weeks after a much ballyhooed celebration of what was then called “the most powerful system in the state” that would be made available to government, private industry, higher education, and other organizations.
It cannot now be used. By anyone.
The main contractor on the $10 million project was High Point Solutions, a New Jersey company that, in 2011, paid the university $6.5 million for the naming rights to Rutgers Stadium. At the time the naming rights deal was announced, a Rutgers official said High Point would also receive “opportunity to expand its business relationship with the university.” Rutgers says the contract for the supercomputer was awarded “after a competitive bidding process.”
The computer, dubbed “Caliburn,” was used by students, faculty members, and researchers at Rutgers and is available to six other universities in the state in what is called the New Jersey Big Data Alliance. It will be completely offline for at least another 10 days, according to Rutgers officials.
The supercomputer, built with a $10 million grant from the New Jersey Higher Education Leasing Fund, had to be shut down because of a cooling problem, Rutgers officials reported to this site. It is operated by the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute, better known by the abbreviation RDI2.
The university released a statement from Caliburn’s designer Manish Parashar, computer science professor and RDI2 director:
“Caliburn was shut down in mid-January after a leak was detected in the cooling system of the data center where the supercomputer is housed. The supercomputer was not damaged. Vendors are working to fix the cooling system and make arrangements to move part of the computer system to a temporary home and be back online within 10 days. Meanwhile, Caliburn users have access to their data and no one lost any data.
“We have informed faculty, researchers and students who use Caliburn that we are addressing the problem and are working to get the computers online as soon as possible.”
Computer users contacted Bob Braun’s Ledger to report that the massive computing system was down. One said users were told the supercomputer would not be fully back on line for another two months.
A subsequent emailed statement from Rutgers conceded only a “part” of the massive computer system could be online in 10 days. The university did not explain why the loss of the computer system was not announced publicly despite a big public celebration of its debut Dec. 15. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and then state Higher Education Secretary Rochelle Hendricks were scheduled to attend but no news story on the event mentioned their presence.
None of the sites connected to Caliburn, including RDI2’s Facebook and Parashar’s Twitter, mentioned the failure of the supercomputer.
An earlier RDI2 statement said Caliburn–an old English form of “Excalibur,” the legendary King Arthur’s sword and the name of a previous computer system at Rutgers–“will establish New Jersey’s reputation in advanced computing and benefit a broad spectrum of industry sectors and academic disciplines.”
The other universities using Caliburn through the “big data” alliance are Kean University, Montclair State University, N.J. Institute of Technology, Rowan University, Richard Stockton College, and Stevens Institute of Technology.
The alliance’s website also indicated it works “closely” with the New Jersey Office of Information Technology – Enterprise Data Services, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and NJEdge.net, New Jersey’s Higher Education and Research Network. One of the alliance’s website pages also counts Princeton University as an affiliate.
Rutgers has promoted the tenuous connection between Rutgers football–which this year had a disastrous 2-10 season–and Caliburn. A statement from the university’s Office of Research and Economic Development last June announced the new machine would rank No. 2 among computers “in the Big Ten,” the university’s football league.
The RDI2 put out this description of the supercomputer’s technical specifications:
The SuperMicro system is based on FatTwin SuperServer solution. It has 560 nodes with the following configuration:
- Two Intel Xeon E5-2695v4 (Broadwell) processors
- 256 gigabytes (GB) of RAM
- 400 GB of Intel NVMe
Overall, the system has 20,160 cores, 140 TB of RAM memory and 218 TB of non-volatile memory.
The HPL performance of Caliburn is 603 TFlops with a peak performance of 677 TFlops.