Tech advances help make supercomputers more accessible


Purdue University, anticipating increased faculty demand for supercomputing access, has moved its supercomputing cluster—called Steele—to a portable computer center containing more than 7,200 processing cores.

One of the first universities to use Hewlett-Packard’s Performance-Optimized Data Center (POD), Purdue says its use of the modular supercomputer will make space for two or three new supercomputers at the campus’s Rosen Center for Advanced Computing—a move that will help Purdue officials meet the growing faculty and researcher demand for supercomputing resources.

“This gives us an expansion capability we have not had,” said Lon Ahlen, facilities manager for Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), the school’s main technology organization.

The POD technology has helped Purdue technology decision makers avoid reconfiguring buildings to fit new supercomputing resources—a costly adjustment. It requires only a concrete pad for foundation and a connection to the campus’s data and power lines, according to a university announcement.

“With the POD, we’ll have deployed an entire new data center in a matter of months at a fraction of the cost of a traditional data center, while being able to support all our current, as well as anticipated … faculty demand,” said John Campbell, associate vice president for academic technologies at Purdue.

The relatively pocket-sized supercomputing cluster will aid faculty members from a range of departments, including aeronautics, agronomy, climate science, communications, medicinal chemistry, molecular pharmacology, biology, engineering, physics, and statistics.

On some campuses, the sharing of supercomputing resources has expanded beyond faculty and students.

Brown University in Providence, R.I., in partnership with IBM, announced in November the opening of a new supercomputer in Brown’s Center for Computation and Visualization that will be made available to businesses, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and other universities across the state.

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