Access restriction

Once your project has been approved, your login on the Tier-1 cluster will be enabled. You use the same vsc-account (vscXXXXX) as at your home institutions and you use the same $VSC_HOME and $VSC_DATA directories, though the Tier-1 does have its own scratch directories.

You can log in to the following login nodes:


These nodes are also accessible from outside the KU Leuven. Unless for the Tier-1 system muk, it is not needed to first log on to your home cluster to then proceed to BrENIAC. Have a look at the quickstart guide for more information.

Hardware details

The tier-1 cluster BrENIAC is primarily aimed at large parallel computing jobs that require a high-bandwidth low-latency interconnect, but jobs that require a multitude of small independent tasks are also accepted.

The main architectural features are:

  • 580 compute nodes with two Xeon E5-2680v4 processors (2,4GHz, 14 cores per processor, Broadwell architecture). 435 nodes are equiped with 128 GB RAM and 135 nodes with 256 GB. The total number of cores is 16,240, the total memory capacity is 90.6 TiB and the peak performance is more than 623 TFlops (Linpack result 548 TFlops).
    The Broadwell CPU supports the 256-bits AVX2 vector instructions with fused-multiply-add operations. Each core can execute up to 16 double precision floating point operations per cycle (2 4-number FMAs), but to be able to use the AVX2 instructions, you need to recompile your program for the Haswell or Broadwell architecture.
    The CPU also uses what Intel calls the "Cluster-on-Die"-approach, which means that each processor chip internally has two groups of 7 cores. For hybrid MPI/OpenMP processes (or in general distributed/shared memory programs), 4 MPI processes per node each using 7 cores might be a good choice.
  • EDR Infiniband interconnect with a fat tree topology (blocking factor 2:1)
  • A storage system with a net capacity of approximately 1.3 PB and a peak bandwidth of 20 GB/s, using the GPFS file system.
  • 2 login nodes with a similar configuration as the compute nodes

Compute time on BrENIAC is only available upon approval of a project. Information on requesting projects is available in Dutch and in English.

Accessing your data

BrENIAC supports the standard VSC directories.

  • $VSC_HOME points to your VSC home directory. It is your standard home directory which is accessed over the VSC network, and available as /user/<institution>/XXX/vscXXXYY, e.g., /user/antwerpen/201/vsc20001. So the quota on this directory is set by your home institution.
  • $VSC_DATA points to your standard VSC data directory, accessed over the VSC network. It is available as /data/<institution>/XXX/vscXXXYY. The quota on this directory is set by your home institution. The directory is mounted via NFS which lacks some of the feature of the parallel file system which may be available at your home institution. Certain programs using parallel I/O may fail when running from this directory, you are strongly encouraged to only run programs from $VSC_SCRATCH.
  • $VSC_SCRATCH is a Tier-1 specific fast parallel file system using the GPFS file system. The default quota is 1 TiB but may be changed depending on your project request. The directory is also available as /scratch/leuven/XXX/vscXXXYY (and note "leuven" in the name, not your own institutions as this directory is physically located on the Tier-1 system at KU Leuven). The variable $VSC_SCRATCH_SITE points to the same directory.
  • $VSC_NODE_SCRATCH points to a small (roughly 70 GB) local scratch directory on the SSD of each node. It is also available as /node_scratch/<jobid>. The contents is only accessible from a particular node and during the job.

Running jobs and specifying node characteristics

The cluster uses Torque/Moab as all other clusters at the VSC, so the generic documentation applies to BrENIAC also.

  • BrENIAC uses a single job per node policy. So if a user submits single core jobs, the nodes will usually be used very inefficiently and you will quickly run out of your compute time allocation. Users are strongly encouraged to use the Worker framework (e.g., module worker/1.6.7-intel-2016a) to group such single-core jobs. Worker makes the scheduler's task easier as it does not have to deal with too many jobs. It has a documentation page on this user portal and a more detailed external documentation site.
  • The maximum regular job duration is 3 days.
  • Take into account that each node has 28 cores. These are logically grouped in 2 sets of 14 (socket) or 4 sets of 7 (NUMA-on-chip domains). Hence for hybrid MPI/OpenMP programs, 4 MPI processes per node with 7 threads each (or two with 14 threads each) may be a better choice than 1 MPI process per node with 28 threads.

Several "MOAB features" are defined to select nodes of a particular type on the cluster. You can specify them in your job scirpt using, e.g.,

#PBS -l feature=mem256

to request only nodes with the mem256 feature. Some important features:

feature explanation
mem128 Select nodes with 128 GB of RAM (roughly 120 GB available to users)
mem256 Select nodes with 256 GB of RAM (roughly 250 GB available to users)
rXiY Request nodes in a specific InfiniBand island. X ranges from 01 to 09, Y can be 01, 11 or 23. The islands RxI01 have 20 nodes each, the islands rXi11 and rXi23 with i = 01, 02, 03, 04, 06, 07, 08 or 09 have 24 nodes each and the island r5i11 has 16 nodes. This may be helpful to make sure that nodes used by a job are as close to each other as possible, but in general will increase waiting time before your job starts.

Compile and debug nodes

8 nodes with 256 GB of RAM are set aside for compiling or debugging small jobs. You can run jobs on them by specifying

#PBS -lqos=debugging

in your job script.

The following limitation apply:

  • Maximum 1 job per user at a time
  • Maximum 8 nodes for the job
  • Maximum accumulated wall time is 1 hour. e.g., a job using 1 node for 1 hour or a job using 4 nodes for 15 minutes.

Credit system

BrENIAC uses Moab Accounting Manager for accounting the compute time used by a user. Tier-1 users have a credit account for each granted Tier-1 project. When starting a job, you need to specify which credit account to use via

#PBS -A lpt1_XXXX-YY

or with lpt1_XXXX-YY the name of your project account. You can also specify the -A option at the command line of qsub.

Further information

Software specifics

BrENIAC uses the standard VSC toolchains. However, not all VSC toolchains are made available on BrENIAC. For now, only the 2016a toolchain is available. The Intel toolchain has slightly newer versions of the compilers, MKL library and MPI library than the standard VSC 2016a toolchain to be fully compatible with the machine hardware and software stack.

Some history

BrENIAC was installed during the spring of 2016, followed by several months of testing, first by the system staff and next by pilot users. The system was officially launched on October 17 of that year, and by the end of the month new Tier-1 projects started computing on the cluster.

We have a time lapse movie of the construction of BrENIAC:


Look for...