Michelle Ward
Office of International Programs

IBM, KU to empower researchers with world-class supercomputing

Fri, 04/27/2012

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas will partner with Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. to help advance supercomputing at KU, the school announced today.

The IBM Shared University Research (SUR) award includes five compute blades, a large memory blade, a graphical processing unit blade, two storage servers and 72 terabytes of disk storage to the renovated Bioinformatics Computing Facility. The KU award builds on a donation earlier this year of three IBM BladeCenter chassis to the BCF.

The BCF renovation is being funded through a $4.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health as part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The BCF, which is set to open this summer, will greatly enhance the computing capabilities of the university, giving researchers a 20-fold increase in computing power to support investigations ranging from biology and disease to national security and climate change.

“At most universities, researchers work department-by-department or individually to get the computing resources they need,” said Perry Alexander, director of the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, which houses the new BCF. “The BCF unites university resources and provides an outstanding staff to maintain a secure, energy efficient, world-class computing facility. Now, KU researchers can spend less time managing computational resources and more time conducting scholarly work.”

IBM’s Shared University Research Award program strives to connect researchers at universities with IBM Research, IBM Life Sciences, IBM Global Services and IBM's development and product labs.

The KU-IBM partnership will develop new hardware and software approaches to modeling and simulations of complex real-world systems. Researchers will be able to process and analyze huge volumes of structured and unstructured data, share their findings, explore new approaches and store the results of their research. Advanced systems modeling will enable more accurate predictions and large-scale analyses that incorporate data from multiple disciplines into a single framework with the goal of accelerating scientific breakthroughs.

IBM Systems and Technology Group University Alliances Executive Keith Brown sponsored the award to help the University of Kansas expand its High Performance Computing capabilities.

“We are pleased to help provide KU with the computational framework needed to develop and evaluate a hybrid computing cluster that is optimized for a number of simulation paradigms,” said Brown. “Modeling cell processes and structures, predicting the impact of climate change on biodiversity and exploring massive data sets using visual and analytical techniques are examples of how HPC technology can be used to achieve our goals of helping to create a Smarter Planet.”

Gerald Lushington, director of KU’s Molecular Graphics and Modeling Laboratory, uses the BCF in developing computational methods able to extract information from voluminous medical and chemical research.

“Laboratory instruments for studying problems in molecular biology and medicine have grown incredibly sophisticated very quickly, to the point where they produce such huge volumes of useful data that we need very powerful computers to meaningfully analyze data,” Lushington said. “The renovated BCF in Nichols Hall provides the high performance computing hardware necessary to do this work, and the IBM SUR grant will deliver a valuable infusion of computing power for these calculations.”

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