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MSU Makes Supercomputing More Accessible

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Michigan State University is leading an initiative to lower the costs of access to supercomputers for researchers, students and professors across Michigan.

Through a partnership with Central Michigan University, MSU is expanding the supercomputing capacity of its Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research, www.icer.msu.edu, as well as making it more accessible.

The mission of iCER is to ensure that researchers are able to use large-scale computer systems to produce results faster, and the new expansion furthers that mission, said Wolfgang Bauer, chairperson of the physics and astronomy department and founding director of iCER.

“Governor-elect Rick Snyder has called for consolidation of services as an important step in reducing costs at public institutions,” he said. “Our high-performance computing partnership with Central Michigan University takes a major step toward achieving that goal.”

In layman’s terms, when compared to a typical desktop system, the system upgrade alone has more than 1,000 times the processing power, 4,000 times more memory and 1 million times more bandwidth, Bauer explained.

“If you add the high-performance computing upgrade with iCER’s existing infrastructure, the system’s total cloud capacity is equivalent to one of the top 500 supercomputer systems in the world,” he said, referring to the gold standard of supercomputer rankings.

The upgrade cost approximately $750,000, and CMU contributed approximately $130,000. The capacity of iCER now includes several thousands of processor cores, hundreds of terabytes of high-performance tiered data storage, large memory systems, a 10-gigabit per second Internet connection as well as security, collaboration, network management and virtualization platforms.

“Having access to a computer of this caliber is a great opportunity, one that I’m certain our faculty and students will take full advantage,” said Jane Matty, interim dean of CMU’s College of Science and Technology. “And being able to gain access through such a small investment makes good financial sense as well.”

Not only is iCER one of the world’s largest supercomputers, but it also works to use many resources more efficiently. The center’s leaders work with IT personnel to better manage personal and laboratory computing resources at MSU as well as increase energy efficiency. That emphasis has allowed MSU to save on power and cooling costs, support staff and better manage other assets as well, Bauer added.

“By continually improving and expanding our efforts, we will be able conduct even more research that is critical to Michigan and the rest of the world,” he said.

The main projects the cluster expansion will serve include climate modeling  for the Great Lakes region, computer simulation of biological evolution, gaining insight into the process of protein folding  and calculations for MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

A ceremony to turn on the new cluster expansion will take place at 2:30 p.m., Dec. 1 at MSU’s College of Engineering, room 3200.

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