Universities expand their supercomputing horizons


High performance computing (HPC) plays a pivotal role in supporting and advancing research at the college and university level where many of the top innovations are born. Supercomputers supply the performance required to process and analyze large amounts of data which sparks innovation and creates major breakthroughs on some of the world’s most complex challenges. Ongoing access to the latest HPC technology is critical to the mission of higher education.

For colleges and universities, putting an HPC system into production empowers staff, researchers and students. Take for example Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The university has been buying time on other supercomputing systems to analyze their research in computational biology. However, the school encountered limitations in the amount of rented time available to teach students the fundamentals of computer science and to analyze data for bioinformatic research. Through the generous donation of an IBM supercomputer, that’s all about to change.

NSU is receiving their own supercomputer nicknamed “Megalodon” and just broke ground to create a new facility to house the system. The facility will also be the home to one of Florida’s largest wet labs, the NSU Technology Incubator where some of the world’s most accomplished researchers will work. The new center and supercomputer will support hundreds of research projects spanning cancer treatments to environmental sustainability. Students will be able to receive in-depth training on these systems, performing complex computational sciences programs or information security protocols to prepare them for the workforce.

Similarly, Texas A&M University Systems recently announced a collaborative research agreement with IBM that included the creation of a new HPC system focused on agrilife, geosciences and engineering research. The system will allow researchers to analyze massive amounts of data to find solutions to a wide array of issues such as improving extraction of Earth-based energy resources, facilitating the smart energy grid, accelerating materials development, improving disease identification and tracking in animals, and fostering better understanding and monitoring of our global food supplies.

The importance of access to supercomputing power by institutions of higher learning cannot be overstated. A great deal of research, innovation and invention coming from colleges and universities, aided by supercomputing, is adopted and adapted by industry to develop new and improved products. For example, Northwestern University used HPC capability in their development of a chemical called pregabalin which is used in a drug sold by Pfizer to treat fibromyalgia and epilepsy.

And often times, students and faculty will parlay their own university research into start-up companies that deliver completely fresh new solutions and services. A good example is Platform Computing which began as a research project at the University of Toronto for job scheduling on large HPC clusters. Faculty and students tackled a vexing problem related to supercomputing efficiency and brought the technology to the broader industry as a commercial product. IBM acquired Platform Computing in 2012.

HPC systems can be a powerful agent of change – not only for research findings but for the overall curriculum, academic rigor and global prestige of our higher education institutions.

To learn more, visit our website or start a conversation with us below!

Herb Schultz is the IBM STG Marketing Manager for Technical Computing and Big Data & Analytics, Since joining IBM in 1979 as a systems programmer, Mr. Schultz has held a variety of management positions in software development, systems test, ISV enablement, and product and segment marketing. He was an original member of the IBM SP supercomputer team, and the Blue Gene project. More recently, Mr. Schultz has been responsible for Technical Computing and BD&A worldwide marketing. He has a BS in Mathematics from Gannon University and an MS in Computer Science from Syracuse University.

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