Gaining Control Over a Diverse Academic Computing Environment

BrandPost By Janet Morss
Mar 08, 2021
AnalyticsBig DataHadoop

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Credit: Dell Technologies

UT Dallas Cyber Infrastructure for Research Department (UTD CI) offers a suite of cyber-infrastructure services to faculty, staff and students. When the university decided to bring the IT assets of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics (NSM) under UTD CI management, the transfer was complicated by several unknowns.

NSM had everything from Linux® and Windows® desktop systems to servers and even small high-performance computing (HPC) clusters. There was no clear record of the age or condition of the systems, or how they were maintained or backed up.

All this information needed to be captured and documented, and a management plan needed to be put into place. The UTD CI did not have enough resources to handle this considerable task, and turned to long-term partner, Dell Technologies for assistance. Dell Technologies recommended trusted HPC consulting partner, Houston-based X-ISS.

X-ISS is an HPC software and services provider focused on four core practices:

  • ManagedHPC for worry-free outsourced cluster management.
  • DecisionHPC for reporting and analytics for HPC and big data clusters.
  • CloudHPC for assessment, design, deployment and management of HPC cloud clusters.
  • ProjectHPC for assessment, design and deployment of HPC and big data clusters.

“When X-ISS got involved, they were able to help us do a lot of the sleuth work — to go into the machines to look at the situation, to test the storage, to look at the user profiles, to check everything,” said Dr. Jerry Perez, the UT Dallas Director for Cyber Infrastructure Operations. “They went through everything with a fine-tooth comb.” Within a short period of time, X-ISS was able to provide a full report documenting the state of the NSM environment — something that could have taken six weeks or more with internal staff. From that foundation, they were able to begin setting priorities for the cyber infrastructure that needed to be better protected, upgraded or replaced.

Working with Dell Technologies

The IT leaders at UTD CI consider Dell Technologies to be a true partner. When the university put itself on the path to establishing local HPC systems, it partnered with Dell Technologies, in part because Dell Technologies had built a successful supercomputer in operation at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

“We went with Dell from the beginning,” says Frank Feagans, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “While we looked at other options, we liked the fact that the Stampede computer at TACC was running on Dell servers, and running very, very well. Also, Dell provided, at their cost, very senior, very intelligent technicians who really understand the HPC space. They helped us craft a design that didn’t optimize the amount of dollars that Dell EMC was going to get — it optimized the science that we were going to deliver.”

Feagans notes that Dell Technologies personnel didn’t disappear after the first cluster came online. In fact, Dell technicians and engineers are always just a phone call away.

“In industry, partnering is absolutely critical,” he says. “That is one of the reasons why we are so connected with Dell — because they are there for us. I have not had any issues with Dell. Whenever I call about anything, they will pick up the phone, they will show up, they will help solve the problem, they will help come up with ideas and considerations for the future.”

“Dell EMC is truly our partner,” Feagans says. “It is so refreshing. Commitments are honored. Follow-through happens. It is just not a game. It really feels like a true partnership. And we need more of those.”

To Learn More

Find out more in the written case study, “The power of partnership” and watch the video. Learn about the technologies behind HPC at and