64-bit Linux powers drug research at Cambridge

A £7.5m Cambridge University drugs research institute has adopted a Linux-driven 64-bit computing system to handle data on tablet...

A £7.5m Cambridge University drugs research institute has adopted a Linux-driven 64-bit computing system to handle data on tablet formulation and drug doses.

The Pfizer Institute, a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre and drugs company Pfizer, has installed a Beowulf high-performance computing cluster based on dual Intel Itanium 2 processors within an eight-node HP Integrity rx2600 system.

This turnkey solution is powered by RedHat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server, and was configured by reseller Cambridge Online Systems.

James Elliott, head of Cambridge University's Materials Modelling Group, said the methods used by the institute required an exceptional "floating-point performance", hence the decision to use dual Intel Itanium 2 processors within the eight-node system.

The system is connected through an HP Procurve gigabit-speed interconnection, enabling parallel simulations to aggregate more processing power and effective memory.

Elliot said, "The use of 64-bit computing was very important to us and the RedHat Advanced Server was a mature solution we could trust to complete the institute's important work."

Elliot said he had already used 32-bit RedHat products and was also familiar with 64-bit SuSE Linux, but the 64-bit RedHat software won out on performance and cost with this configuration.

Most of the build and configuration work on the system was done off-site, which Elliot said reduced potential disruption to the institute's work.

The cost of the Linux system has not been disclosed by the university.

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