Businesses can apply to use supercomputer

Qualifying businesses in New York state will now have access to the computational power of the IBM B

Qualifying businesses in New York state will now have access to the computational power of the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, if they can figure out how to use it.

The New York State Foundation for Science Technology and Innovation hosted a conference call Wednesday explaining that RPI and New York state have begun accepting applications from New York businesses to use the powerful computer to rapidly advance research simulations.

NYSTAR Executive Director Ed Reinfurt said when New York state helped fund the RPI $100 million Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, it reserved the right to use 20 percent of the capacity of the supercomputer for state purposes.

“Gov. Paterson has decided the primary, principle use of the state’s share of the computer should be economic development purposes. Today we are officially announcing that all businesses in New York state are eligible to use the computational capacity and services at the supercomputer for their business innovation,” he said.

According to RPI and IBM officials, the supercomputer has an operational capacity of more than 90 peak teraflops — one trillion floating point operations per second — or roughly 15,000 calculations for every human being on Earth per second.

Reinfurt said RPI officials will evaluate businesses that submit requests to use the supercomputer. He said there is not yet a backlog of future users.

“We are at the stage where we are encouraging use and will do anything with our reserve capacity to arrange for time to use the computer,” he said. “One of the great things about this, talking to some of the potential company users, we’re talking about taking applications that on their own computer systems would take a month to run and having it literally [performed] in 10 to 15 minutes on the supercomputer. The ability to accelerate a company’s ‘speed to market’ and getting answers to questions that took a long time in the lab, is huge.”

Some of the industries expected to benefit from the supercomputer’s vast ability to run complex simulations are the biomedical industry, the automobile industry, the advanced materials industry and the field of nanotechnology design.

RPI Vice President for Information Services and Technology John Kolb said many companies may have large amounts of data that could be crunched for productive purpose with a supercomputer application, but the data won’t be coded properly for the powerful processing capabilities of the supercomputer.

This gap between the power of the supercomputer and the know-how to effectively use motivated NYSTAR’s new program of accepting requests for proposals for funding of up to $1 million for educational institutions to hire staff directly related to developing applications for the RPI supercomputer. He said RPI is one institution that has applied for the funding.

Kolb said RPI staff at the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations have helped some companies either write new code or translate old code into formats suitable for the supercomputer.

Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, the New York state chief information officer and director of the office for technology, said state officials are also looking for ways to use the supercomputer’s power to enhance government services.

State officials said two areas the state may look to use the supercomputer are homeland security and transportation.

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