March 27, 2012

Rutgers to Become Big Data Powerhouse

Datanami Staff

Today Rutgers University released official word about a new high performance computing center that is dedicated to tackling big data problems in research and science as well as supporting the complex needs of business users in the region.

According to a statement today, “in the project’s first phase, Rutgers anticipates future expansion of the center will lead to the university having one of the world’s most powerful academic supercomputers.”

This fits in as well with the university’s stated desire to find ways to boost the economic competitiveness of the region and its research organizations.

At the heart of the center, which is part of the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute (RDI2), is an IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer. The university says the Blue Gene will address the big data problems in science and enterprise stated previously, as well as go to work for the New Jersey workforce and Rutgers students as they work with advanced analytics with some of the best computational resources available.

RDI2, also known as the state’s Center for Advanced Computation, provides resources for both academic and industry use. The ultimate goal of the center is to be home to a Top Ten supercomputer (as ranked by the Top500 list).

The development of the center is continuing in three phases, the first of which was completeled with the installation of the BlueGene/P Excalibur system, and the second phase of which will involve the acquisition of two Blue Gene/Q systems. The university then hopes to move ahead with the last phase, which they describe as “the acquisition of more computational power and the opening of an expanded facility at Innovation Park @Rutgers.

The IBM Blue Gene supercomputer will be the only supercomputer available to commercial users in the state. Only eight of the nation’s 62 scientific computation centers have industrial partnership programs. ; The two Blue Gene/P racks at Rutgers will be far more powerful than any computer at the university today. “Excalibur” is the name Rutgers has chosen for it, playing off the university’s sports mascot, the Scarlet Knight.

Rutgers has agreed to purchase hardware and software from IBM, as well as entering into a three-year maintenance agreement for the equipment. ; As future funding becomes available, Rutgers expects to add the latest-generation Blue Gene/Q system by the end of the year. ; Rutgers also envisions building an expanded facility on the Busch campus in 2013 as the system and center grows. ;

Supporting the local economy is a core part of the Rutgers announcement. While the university plans to turn the resources on the expected big data problems in research and science, they are keeping in tune with the needs of the greater community.

According to Michael J. Pazzani, who serves as VP for research and economic development in addition to his role as a professor of computer science at Rutgers, “The ability to conduct data analysis on a large scale, leveraging the power of ‘big data’ has become increasingly essential to research and development.”

He went on to note that “the Institute will collaborate with businesses that need high performance computing capabilities but can’t justify the cost of building their own system.”

A number of large enterprises have signed on, according to a report this week, including Bristol Meyers-Squibb, Johnson and Johnson, JP Morgan Chase and others.  ;While one can make the argument that these Fortune 500 companies should have no trouble scaring up their own high-end systems for enterprise research, it will be interesting to see the immediate impacts of an HPC center on the local business environment over time.

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