Scientific Visualization at the HPC²

The need for large-scale scientific visualization capabilities at the HPC² are nearly as great as the need for large-scale computational capabilities. The HPC² has long been the home of many very high performance visualization systems. Historically, these systems have been large SGI Onyx and Onyx2 graphics servers, but more recently these systems have been replaced by Linux-based PC clusters.

In December 2007, the HPC² installed a Mechdyne/Fakespace FLEX virtual reality environment. This system (which is named "The VERTEX", for "Virtual Environment for Real-Time EXploration") is reconfigurable and can be used as a traditional CAVE, in which the walls are configured to form a cube. In this configuration 10ft x 7.5 ft stereoscopic images are projected onto the front, left, and right walls as well as the floor. Inertial-ultrasonic motion tracking provides the user with an immersive virtual reality experience. The right wall of the system may also be opened up to ninety degrees to provide a single 20ft x 7.5ft flat vertical display. This system replaced an older Mechdyne CAVE system installed at the HPC² in 1998 and is used for collaborative research in such areas as geosciences, computational fluid dynamics, and computational chemistry.

Each researcher with high performance visualization requirements is provided with a desktop workstation with high-end graphics. These desktops are generally Linux PC's with workstation-level graphics cards.

The VERTEX is driven by four Sun Ultra 40 workstations with two dual-core Opteron 2222 processors, 4GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA QuadroFX 5600G graphics card.