Tuesday, 2 December 2014

4 things to do with Google Groups


Google Groups are often seen as a slightly mysterious part of Google Apps. It’s not always obvious what they’re for. To put it simply a Google Group is a bit like a membership club. If you are a member you have access to a whole range of facilities but if your membership changes so does your access. Google Groups will also save you time when using other Google Apps like Drive and Calendar.

Here are some simple yet effective things you can do with Groups to make your life easier, save you time, and help you find good fish and chips.

Email lists

We like email lists. Or if we don’t we certainly use them a misleading amount. They are great for
communicating with specific groups of people. Google Groups are easy to use, just send an email to the groups address and group members will get it, and easy to manage if you are a group owner.
Here’s just a few useful settings:
  • who can post to messages
  • who can join the group
  • message moderation settings
  • and you can create other managers to help you look after your group

TIP: As a member you can decide how you receive messages. Whether it’s getting every one, getting a message digest, or getting nothing.


Create a forum

As well as the classic email list option, you can set your Group up as a web forum. They work like Sheffield Forum or Freecycle and can be great for departmental chat-type posts and replies. You know; "Gardening tools free to a good home", "Does anyone know where to get the best fish and
chips in Whitby?" 

TIP: To set up a Forum, you just select ‘Web forum’ as the group type when you create your Group. From there the settings are the same as for email lists, though you may want to add a welcome message.


Simplify sharing

As a Google Group is identified with an email address, you can share resources stored on Drive. You don’t have to remember lots of individual email addresses as you simply use the group’s email address. 

TIP: A good way to share with a group is to set up a folder, share it, and then add any other docs or folders to that. That way you only have to share once.


Invite a group of people

No matter the size, if you regularly use calendar to invite the same group of people to events, having to invite them individually is a real time killer. Whether it’s a team meeting, a project board or a lunch appointment with friends, a group can save you huge amounts of time. 

TIP: The easiest way to set up a meeting is to create one at a random time, invite the Group, then use Find a time to pick your slot. 


Now that you know what to do, visit our Google Groups web pages to find out how, and start making your life just that little bit easier.

Upgrades to Iceberg cluster

The latest upgrades to the iceberg cluster have seen the introduction of more 'Intel-based' nodes, the addition of graphical processing units (GPUs) for cutting-edge acceleration of computations, increased capacity for the fastdata parallel file system and an expansion of the fast, ‘Infiniband’, interconnect between all of the compute nodes.

The upgrade was a big piece of work. A number of research groups have purchased equipment, which has been added to the cluster. One of the ramifications of this was that we had used all of the available capacity of our fast ‘infiniband’ network. We therefore had to reconfigure the network so that further hardware could be added to the cluster.

The campus HPC framework agreement with Dell has been running for four years. It allows any group or department on campus to purchase equipment for high performance computing from Dell. The agreement comes to an end in June 2015 and the final piece of work to upgrade the Iceberg facility needed to be completed by this date. An upgrade is normally completed every two years.

Before the updates there were four racks the upgrade has resulted in an additional four cabinets. The new updates include:
  • The fastdata file store has been increased in capacity from 80 to 260TB.
  • The Infiniband network has been reconfigured and expanded to allow for the possibility of adding further servers to the cluster as requested by research groups.
  • Addition of 96 additional compute nodes using the Intel Xeon ‘Ivy bridge’ architecture.
  • Addition of 8 NVIDIA GPUs based on the Kepler architecture each GPU has 12GB of graphical memory.
The expansion of fastdata provides an increase in performance and a very large temporary storage area. Users of the HPC generate a lot of temporary data, which we can’t keep on the data storage system. A special area called fast data allows this temporary data to be stored. Files are deleted after 90 days, but over-capacity was reached at the start of the year so this had to be reduced to 60 days. The upgrade has expanded fast data storage to 260Tb, which should be sufficient for the next two years.

A benefit of the additional compute modes is that they take account of research groups with a requirement to run larger problems using more memory. With the new Intel Ivy bridge nodes we have increased available memory from 24GB per node to 64GB per node a number of nodes have 256 GB of memory giving 16GB/core.

The research data storage on Iceberg is also in the process of being upgraded. The old hardware was in need of refreshing as it was past its sell by date, although it has been running well for many years.

The older AMD based compute nodes date back to 2008 and will soon be taken out of service soon. Although these nodes are still used for some high throughput tasks they are not as power efficient, they are using space in the data centre and are now unsupported.

All the hard work carried out by the team, who have worked on the upgrades will ensure researchers at the University can continue to undertake research projects with intensive computing requirements.