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RPI gets $1.8M for upgrades to supercomputer

May 14, 2013
Updated 10:20 p.m.
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— Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute got $1.8 million Tuesday for upgrades to its supercomputing center that are expected to save the university more than $1 million in annual electricity costs.

The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations is a partnership between RPI and IBM that allows industrial, government and academic researchers to tackle scientific and technological challenges related to advanced manufacturing, health care, renewable energy systems and other areas.

The funding — announced Tuesday by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority — will pay for upgrades to the center’s electrical and mechanical infrastructure, help increase the center’s computation capabilities per watt of power, and allow for an eventual expansion of the center.

“Rensselaer is at the forefront of applying high performance computing to today’s most challenging and complex problems, including energy, health, food, water and national security and the linked challenges of climate change and allocation of scarce resources,” RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson said in a news release. “Finding solutions involves massive amounts of data and requires complex computations, driven by ever-more powerful supercomputers. As we dramatically increase the computational power of our supercomputers, we also must reduce the energy requirements.”

RPI recently transitioned its supercomputing research activities to a powerful IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer system, which is four times faster and uses half the energy as its predecessor. The new system and other improvements at CCNI are expected to reduce the energy usage at Rensselaer by more than 15 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually — about the equivalent of powering 2,100 average-sized homes for one year.

The NYSERDA funding was awarded last year through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional council initiative. RPI actually requested funds for its supercomputer during two rounds of funding and was turned down both times.

This funding will come from NYSERDA’s Industrial and Process Efficiency Program, which provides up to $5 million in financial incentives to manufacturers and data centers that enhance productivity and energy efficiency.

 
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