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RIP, Hypatia …

Jul 5, 2021 | RAINER KLOSE
Cluster computer Hypatia in its early days. Image: Empa

Hypatia, the joint cluster computer of Empa and Eawag, is no more. On 10 March, the well-behaved and fast helper for scientific simulations was dismantled in Empa's basement and loaded onto the trucks of a waste disposal company. Many components of the mainframe will now begin a new life elsewhere. Hypatia was named after one of the few female scientists of antiquity who lived in Egypt in the 4th century.

The end did not come suddenly or unexpectedly, however, but quite planned. In 2007, Empa had begun building the cluster computer, which consisted of inexpensive standard components that were easy to maintain. At the time, this was cheaper than sending data to the Swiss National Supercomputing Center (CSCS) in Lugano.

Hypatia in the prime of its life. Image: Empa

Hypatia was a real all-rounder; it calculated, among other things, complex atmospheric models and the distribution of air pollutants in cities, noise simulations for air traffic, but also molecular simulations for nanoscientists and data for chemical material analyses.

At 14 years of age, the cluster computer had reached a respectable life expectancy. A recent analysis showed that it is now cheaper and more practical to send computing tasks to Ticino via data line and have them performed at CSCS. Hypatia thus remains at Empa without descendants.

A silent adieu: Technical supervisor Patrik Burkhalter and scientific supervisor Daniele Passerone retired the cluster computer. Image: Empa


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Rainer Klose
Phone +41 58 765 47 33

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