Frequently asked questions - for prospective users
The following information is aimed at new and prospective users of the BlueFern® systems at the University of Canterbury.
If you have further questions please contact us at email@example.com.
- What is BlueFern?
- What is NeSI?
- Who should consider using BlueFern?
- How to get access?
- Is there a charge for using BlueFern?
- Who is eligible to get access to BlueFernsystems?
- What computing resources are available at BlueFern?
- What is the BlueFern computing environment?
- What experience is required to use BlueFern?
- What software is available on BlueFernsystems?
- How can I request software?
- Is parallel programming required?
BlueFern provides high performance computing resources to the New Zealand Research community and is based at the University of Canterbury. BlueFern and its partners are part of a National organisation called NeSI.
For more information about BlueFern see About BlueFern
NeSI is the New Zealand eScience Infrastructure that enables NZ scientists across a wide range of communities and disciplines to access High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities accross its partner sites in New Zealand.
For further information see www.nesi.org.nz.
BlueFern is intended to facilitate research that depends on accessing computing resources that are beyond the means of local resources and desktops of researchers.
If your current computing facilities present fundamental barriers to the advancement of your research projects, e.g limited memory or number of machines, poor disk space, then you should consider using BlueFern.
Getting access to BlueFern systems is very straightforward. Fill in 2 online forms for a project description and an account request at Getting access.
There is no charge for researchers who are hosted by or formally affiliated with the University of Canterbury. Charges are applied to all commercial usage and may also be applied when applying for NeSI allocations as per NeSI’s access policy.
- Researchers, who are hosted by or are formally affiliated with the University of Canterbury;
- Researchers who are affiliated with the University of Canterbury via a formal memorandum of understanding;
- Researchers from any New Zealand University or CRI or research institute that have allocations on BlueFern’s system via a NeSI Research, Proposal Development or Educational project, please refer to NeSI’s access policy for further information;
- Researchers, who are collaborating with a UC research team, please contact us for further information;
- Commercial R&D companies, please contact us for further information.
There are several computing facilities available at BlueFern, some systems are focused for high-performance parallel simulations, some systems are focused for large shared memory simulations and others for scientific visualisation.
BlueFern has an IBM Power 755 system, a BlueGene P system and a Visualisation x86 cluster with 10 GPUs. For more technical details please refer to Computing Resources.
For further information on the system best suited for your specific simulations, see our wiki page Getting Started. In particular the section referring to "Choosing which system to use".
All BlueFern systems use a UNIX variant operating system, in particular Linux with SLES (Suse Linux Entreprise Server) and/or AIX (IBM proprietary Unix operating systems).
BlueFern is a high performance computing environment and researchers have a certain responsibility to use all the systems as effectively as possible.
It is recommended to have some knowledge of the Unix environment, understanding of the shell and other command-line programs in order to manipulate/transfer files, submit and monitor batch jobs, monitor disk storage etc.
If you are new to UNIX systems, we recommend that you work through one of the many online tutorials such as this Tutorial for Beginners.
You should be aware of the memory requirements of your simulations and able to estimate how long they might take and how much space they might require.
If you are developing your own code, you are expected to optimise your code through appropriate choice of algorithm (optimised numerical libraries), compiler flags etc.
For information on currently available software, compilers, mathematical and other libraries, please see wiki page Software available on BlueFern systems.
Note that due to user requirements or limitations of licensing or architecture this list might not always be entirely up to date. If software you require is not included here, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if it can be installed.
Some BlueFern systems are designed, optimised and reserved for highly parallellised simulations (BlueGene P). But there are very legitimate reasons to run serial jobs on some other systems when requiring large memory for example. BlueFern staff can help you to select the most appropriate system for your specific project.