CSU, CU Secure Supercomputer to Boost Research

Faculty Holding Computer Parts
Colorado State grant principal investigators H.J. Siegel, Pat Burns, Edwin Chong, and Jessica Prenni illustrate the evolution of computer processing power leading up to the university's latest supercomputer. Siegel is holding a 1950s magnetic core memory board; Burns, a computer punch card; Chong, a keyboard; and Prenni, a 1980s processor board.

A super cool supercomputer is coming to Colorado State University. Able to cut day-long computations down to seconds, the state-of-the-art high-performance computing (HPC) system is the university's most advanced computing system ever.

This September, CSU's Information Science and Technology Center (ISTeC), in collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder, received a $2.73 million award from the National Science Foundation Major Research Infrastructure Program to help purchase the new supercomputer. With a price tag of $3.9 million, CSU and CU will cost share the remaining balance to secure and support the HPC system, which will be available to faculty, students, and staff to advance research and educational activities at both institutions. The grant awardees hope to have the new system up and running in April 2016.

Fast performance

The planned HPC system will have more than 10,000 cores, or processing units, with an aggregate computing capacity of approximately 500 teraflops, which are a measure of a computer's processing performance. That makes it very, very fast.

"If a scientific application that takes one day to execute on a high-end desktop can exploit the parallelism of our new system, its execution can be reduced from one day to 10 seconds," said H.J. Siegel, Abell Endowed Chair Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State. Siegel also has a joint appointment in the Department of Computer Science, and is the principal investigator on the grant.

High-performance computing supports research in a range of disciplines, including physics, engineering, materials science, earth science, and bioinformatics. What's more, the new system will utilize the universities' combined resources to ensure users access to software, consulting, best practices, HPC courses, and data management services.

"The architectural features of this next-generation, many-core supercomputer will enhance student learning as they design, develop, deploy, and execute applications," Siegel said.

Multidisciplinary collaborations

The system will be housed at CU in Boulder, and accessed through a fiber connection so it will perform as if it were on CSU's local network. Other members of the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium, various universities and research centers in several states, will also be able to access the new system, which promises to facilitate research collaborations across many disciplines.

"We are pleased that, as a result of our successful collaboration with the University of Colorado, ISTeC can provide high-performance computing for the Colorado State campus," said Patrick Burns, Colorado State's vice president for information technology and a co-principal investigator.

Other co-principal investigators on the grant at CSU are Edwin Chong, professor of electrical and computer engineering with a joint appointment in the Department of Mathematics; and Jessica Prenni, director of research core facilities in the Office of the Vice President for Research with a joint appointment as an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The principal investigator at CU is Thomas Hauser, CU's director of Research Computing.

Original story by Anne Ju Manning