Innovative Technology/Lab Support Proposal Online Form

Proposal Title Computer Hardware Upgrades for the ARSC Duckering Lab   Contact Name Brahm Lower
Proposal Author Brahm Lower   Contact Email
Area Department/Specific Use Lab Support   Contact Phone 253-548-7456
Amount Reqested 21,523.00   Group/Department Arctic Region Supercomputing Center
Year Fall 2012   College University of Alaska Fairbanks
Proposal Summary
The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC) Access Lab located in the Duckering Building, room 234, is a resource utilized by University of Alaska Fairbanks faculty, staff, and students. Supported in the ARSC Duckering Access Lab (ADAL) are six high performance Linux workstations dedicated to in-person and remote use for classroom and research computation and visualization. Our proposal is to seek funding for upgrading the outdated Linux workstation hardware in the ADAL. The physical components inside the workstations are over six years old and have undergone no upgrades. These aged components are likely to begin experiencing critical hardware failures within the next year. Though the components in the ADAL Linux workstations have lasted longer than expected, it is imperative they be replaced to maintain the integrity and availability of this valuable on-campus resource.

Budget detail: Requested from TAB Provided by Unit Total Cost
Personnel $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Contractual Services (Installation/Training) $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Supplies $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
(Hardware & software)
$19886.64 $0.00 $19886.64
Shipping Costs $1,636.36 $0.00 $1,636.36
TOTAL AMOUNT REQUESTED $21,523.00 $0.00 $21,523.00

Justification for any personnel or supplies requested:
Describe who will benefit in terms of numbers of students and classes:
The ADAL plays an important role in the engineering and sciences on the UAF campus.
In addition to allowing UAF staff, faculty, and students 24 hour in-person and remote access, the
ADAL offers access to hardware and software critical to competitive research in the engineering
and science disciplines. UAF staff, faculty, and students who physically utilize the ADAL do so
for the preparation and the teaching of classes, to conduct research and visualization using high
end software, and to access the ARSC High Performance Computing (i.e. supercomputers)
resources with local high speed network connections. Those who remotely utilize the lab run
computationally intensive jobs sometimes lasting a week or longer. Between the months of
March 2012 and August 2012, there were a total of 1557 user logins across the six workstations.
Of these 1557 logins, there were 53 people who logged in either locally or remotely. In a survey
of UAF professors who frequently utilize the ADAL, Cheng-fu Chen, a Ph.D in the Mechanical
Engineering department commented, “I often access that lab for research and teaching
preparation. In my class there are 6 students, and some of them are using Comsol…" UAF
graduate and undergraduate classes physically held in the ADAL to use of the Linux
workstations have included:

ME 601 - Finite Element Analysis in Engineering
ME 693 - Advanced Finite Element Analysis
ME 487 - Design Project
These classes, as well as the research conducted by students and faculty, rely on the
accessibility and stability of the ADAL Linux workstations and often push the available resource
limits of the existing workstations.
The ADAL is also open to the public every February in participation with the annual
UAF COEM Engineering Open House event. During this event, ARSC demonstrates UAF
researchers' work to the Fairbanks community by hosting examples of visualization work such as
ocean, space weather, and tsunami models and simulations using the Linux workstations.
Much of the classwork and research conducted on ARSC workstations in the ADAL is
very resource intensive, meaning it requires large amounts CPU power and memory.
Additionally, faculty members and students from several UAF departments use the lab to
conduct research requiring visualization. Visualization, a key component to many of the
simulations conducted on ARSC resources, relies heavily on specialized graphics processing.
UAF Mechanical Engineering Professor and Department Chair, Dr. Jonah Lee, stated, “My main
use of the ADAL for both teaching and research is the visualization portion, i.e., access ARSC
resources remotely is usually good enough if visualization is not involved. However, when
visualization is needed, usually for research, which can be CPU and memory intensive, the Lab
is invaluable.“ The ADAL is polar express restricted, but is open to students and professors free
of charge. Additionally, the lab has a printer with which users may print documents from.
The ADAL Linux workstations also offer resources dedicated to the use of the Comsol,
Abaqus, and Matlab software packages. These software packages are necessary tools used in
today's engineering industries. The value of hosting dedicated resources for this use is
demonstrated by the Institute of Northern Engineering's continued support to fund the annual
license renewal costs of the Comsol and Abaqus software (a total value of $8738.08 in 2012).
Use of the software during 2011-2012 school year included a total of 4,934 Abaqus license
check outs and 12,610 Comsol license check outs.
The resources required for emerging research projects will continue to expand, especially
as more people take advantage of the ARSC systems. While ARSC can improve performance by
maintaining, upgrading and tweaking the hardware on these workstations, only so much can be
done before the hardware limitations become an insurmountable system constraint. Replacing
the existing Linux workstation hardware will be the most cost effective solution to maintaining
this resource for all UAF staff, faculty, and students. The new Linux workstations obtained with
the UAF TAB funding will be more better equipped to handle the various computationally
intensive projects brought forward by UAF students and faculty. We believe this increase in
resource and potential application availability will encourage other departments such as the Physics, Computer Science and Biology departments to utilize the lab for research and educational pursuits. This directly corresponds with UAF's goal to “increase the proportion of students and faculty engaged in research and scholarly activities.” (Section 2, bullet 4 at and demonstrates a conscious effort to provide competitive and state of the art equipment to those who utilize the systems.
How does your proposal fit into UAF strategic goals and objectives?:
We believe this increase in resource and potential application availability will encourage other departments such as the Physics, Computer Science and Biology departments to utilize the lab for research and educational pursuits. This directly corresponds with UAF's goal to “increase the proportion of students and faculty engaged in research and scholarly activities.” (Section 2, bullet 4 at and demonstrates a conscious effort to provide competitive and state of the art equipment to those who utilize the systems.
Outline the implementation schedule and staff responsible for the implementation and oversight:
Following approval of this proposal, the implementation schedule would be as follows:

Ordering, Processing and Shipping time: 1 Month
Installation of New Systems: 1 Week
Software Updates and Testing: 1-2 Weeks

If partial funding is granted the time line will remain the same, however another TAB grant would be submitted during the Spring 2013 semester for funding to purchase any remaining workstations.
Please specify the building (with room numbers, if appropriate) where the technology will be stored, installed or used:
Duckering Building, room 234
Funding provided by the TAB grant will allow ARSC to purchase new workstations to replace the current, out of date machinery in the ADAL. The existing six Sun Ultra 40
workstations are composed of many components no longer in production or under support of the manufacturers. Though upgraded parts are available, the small amount of increased compute resources is not worth the expense. The best approach to taking advantage of more modern computing resources is to simply purchase new systems. There are several benefits that lead us to believe this is the best solution. The first and most beneficial aspect to this approach is that the hardware would be new. The parts currently in operation are over six years old, and while replacing newer parts may help, some components cannot be replaced without completely overhauling the system. By purchasing whole new systems, each component is guaranteed to last at least four to six years, thus greatly reducing the likelihood of any immanent hardware related system instability. The next beneficial aspect to purchasing the new systems is the opportunity to upgrade the systems in the future. The motherboards in the workstations being purchased can support many times more RAM than the existing Ultra 40 Linux workstations, as well as more advanced
CPUs. If future research projects continually push the resource cap of the new machines, extra parts can be purchased and added with fewer concerns regarding the systems ability to utilize the additional parts. The current systems have much lower resource limitations. They subsequently may not be able accept large hardware upgrades, preventing them from meeting user resource
demands. To meet the high demand for modern computing hardware able to support visualization, we have identified high end components available on the market now. The NVIDIA Quadro 2000 is a midrange GPU built with professional visualization in mind. While offering many times the graphics processing resources than the NVIDIA Quadro FX 3450 SDI currently in use, it has a small price tag compared to higher end GPUs on the market. The newer GPUs will provide users with the ability to test projects using OpenCL and Cuda on the workstation, providing easier outlet for testing. Large quantities of RAM will allow users to handle larger data sets, subsequently allowing larger and more complex simulations to be conducted. With that
said, each of the new Linux workstations should adhere to the following specifications:
- Dual AMD Opteron 6128, 8 Core, 2.0 GHz
- 32GB, DDR3-1333 ECC (8 x 4GB)
- 500GB, SATA, 7200rpm
- NVIDIA Quadro 2000, 1 GB
- Standard 3-Year Warranty

We are requesting a total of $21,523.00 to replace the hardware for six Linux workstations in the ADAL. This estimated cost is the quote received from Penguin Computing
to obtain six customized Tempest 4201 workstations. workstations of similar quality from other vendors proved to be more expensive. Alternate vendor quotes received were $4,171.00 per workstation from Dell and $7,911.11 per workstation from Government Computer Sales. These quotes are all more expensive than Penguin Computing's quote of $3,314.44 per workstation, thus making Penguin Computing the most economical vendor to order from. It is recognized that TAB proposals requesting large dollar amounts may not be fulfilled in some situations due to requests for more funding than is available. If full funding for $21,523.00 is unavailable, we request that partial funding be provided as the labs workstations can be replaced over the course of several semesters. To make the option of partial funding more accessible, the following table lists the estimated total costs for purchasing between one and six new Linux workstations:

Number of workstations, Estimated Cost of workstations, Estimated Cost of shipping, Estimated Total Cost
1, $3,314.44, $272.72, $3,587.16
2, $6,628.88, $545.45, $7,174.33
3, $9,943.32, $818.18, $10,761.50
4, $13,257.76, $1,090.90, $14,348.66
5, $16,572.20, $1,363.63, $17,935.83
6, $19,886.64, $1,636.36, $21,523.00

Items Description
# of Units Unit Price Total Price
Customized Tempest 4201 6 3314.44 19886.64
Total     $19886.64

Back to Top