Skip to main content

Support for High Performance Computing

 This page specifically refers to the Finance Group, which has purchased a number of high performance desktop computers (T7500s) for researchers with computationally-intensive needs. Such solutions could be extended to other research groups however should they have similar needs.

Until Dec 08 ISSU support for the T7500s has been limited to hardware and asset management support. This was approved by both the Finance Group and ISSU. As the number of these machines increases however and they become a core part of the research activities of the Finance Group it would seem prudent to increase the level of support on offer within the resource limitations of ISSU. This reflects the request made by the Finance Group in their proposal paper.

 

Outline

Each new machine will be set up with a standard image created by ISSU before being delivered to the Finance Group. The user will have full administrator rights and be able to install any licensed software from DVD or similar. The user will be able to take 'snapshots' of the computer's configuration at any time. These images will be stored on an external hard disk that will be provided by ISSU. In the case of a software problem the user will be able to restore the computer back to the most recent snapshot. This saves the need to reinstall all required software following a reimage.

Contents of standard build

ISSU will prepare a standard build for the T7500. Each new machine will have this build applied before the computer is delivered to the Finance Group. The build will:

a) Partition the drive to C (100GB) and D (remaining space, approx 1TB)
b) Install Windows 7 64bit (Enterprise edition)
c) Include Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus and turn on Windows Updates
d) Include the ability to print to any Finance Group printers
e) Turn on Windows Action Centre for performance monitoring
f) Create an administrator account for the use of the Finance Group staff member
g) Create an administrator account for the use of ISSU staff
h) Include a copy of ShadowProtect Desktop Edition (see below)

The software preinstalled is deliberately kept to a minimum to allow for the maximum performance on these computation-focussed machines. The user has full administrator access to install any licensed software they require from DVD or similar.

'Snapshotting' of computer's configuration

Each computer will have a copy of ShadowProtect Desktop Edition installed ( http://www.storagecraft.com/products/ShadowProtectDesktop/ ). This allows a user-initiated process that copies an image of the computer's C drive to an external hard disk. The computer can rapidly be returned to this image if a problem subsequently occurs. Where no such image has been taken, or such images are not available, the computer will be reimaged back to its base configuration.

Please note the following:

  • This process is not a data backup. It simply copies the C partition and allows the system configuration to be restored.
  • Snapshots are not centrally backed up. Were the device on which they were stored to fail/be stolen, the level of support would be to reimage back to base configuration

 

ISSU's responsibilities

ISSU's support will be limited to:

  • Ordering, taking delivery of the machine and adding to the WBS inventory system
  • Delivery to the user's office
  • Registration of the computer so that it receives an unchanging IP address
  • Maintaining information on software licences and lending associated media where allowed by licence agreements
  • Reporting hardware faults to Dell and coordinating a fix while the machine is covered by a Dell warranty
  • Maintaining the master image
  • Assisting Finance Group staff in reimaging to base configuration if necessary
  • Training Finance Group staff on the use of the ShadowProtect software for taking 'snapshots'
  • Final disposal of the machine ensuring the secure removal of user data


It is a deliberate intention to allow Finance Group staff members to take and restore images without input being required from ISSU as this could present a bottle neck. Although ISSU may provide advice we will be unable to provide support for specialist software.

Finance Group's responsibilities

  • installation of required specialist software
  • to not interfere with the account created for ISSU administration
  • to not interfere with the performance monitoring software. Tests have shown this to have no measurable impact on performance. The information gained should be of use to both ISSU and the Finance Group for the planning of future purchases. Aggregated data will be shared with the Finance Group if requested.