October 18, 2018 | ° F

IBM, U. work to further supercomputer research

Photo by Jovelle Tamayo |

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno converses with colleagues, including Manish Parashar after turning on supercomputer “Excalibur.”

The massive “Excalibur,” the University’s own supercomputer and the only one available for commercial users in New Jersey, sits in the basement of the Busch campus Hill Center.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Manish Parashar turned the IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputer on for the first time yesterday afternoon in the Hill Center’s data center, to signify the launch of a high-performance computing center and collaboration between IBM and University researchers.

The Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute, which maintains the supercomputer, intends to better the economic competitiveness of the state’s research groups and to integrate education, research and infrastructure through the IBM collaboration, according to an RDI² fact sheet provided at the ceremony.

“It’s great for students,” said Parashar, director of the RDI² New Jersey Center for Advanced Computation. “They can work on real problems that are relevant, partnering with industry and using leading infrastructure. But what we’re most excited for is that this is just Step 1.”

The program also hopes to help companies overcome the financial and information barriers associated with using the supercomputer technology.

RDI2 intends to use a revolutionary approach that combines research and education to support formerly unfeasible multidisciplinary research, education and development, said Parashar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Fan Zhang, a Ph.D student studying with Parashar, said his research focuses on making the programs and applications already on “Excalibur” faster and more efficient in every aspect, including writing data, power and memory usage.

“It’s going to be a way for students to actually have access to a large machine, to actually do real science,” said Moustafa Abdelbaky, another Ph.D student under Parashar. “It’s going to allow us to do real experiments, so we don’t have to do smaller simulations anymore.”

Undergraduates and graduates across different disciplines will have access to the computer for their research projects, as would researchers outside the University community, Abdelbaky said.

The collaboration between University and IBM scientists intends to go past engineering and computer science — to encompass areas like cancer and genetic research, medical imaging, environmental research and material science, according to a University press release.

RDI2 plans to offer a master of business and science program in Discovery Informatics and Data Sciences, according to the RDI2 fact sheet. The center also plans to offer training and support services to industrial and academic users, as it makes more resources available.

Richard Teitelbaum, the IBM client executive for the state, said he had personal and professional interest in participating in the project.

Teitelbaum, who graduated the University in 1976, alluded to his time as an undergraduate.

“Thirty-five years ago, I remember coming to the Hill Center, where the supercomputer is housed, to feed punch cards into the main frame there,” he said.

When Teitelbaum became aware IBM sought collaboration opportunities with national universities, the University jumped to mind as one of the places to potentially start the project, he said.

“It’s not about the machine. It’s not about the hardware,” Teitelbaum said. “It’s about the substantive research that our researchers and [the University’s] researchers hope to collaborate with.”

Working with academia allows the expertise of places like the University to merge with other leading edge researchers in the industry and gain leverage out of large-scale resources like “Excalibur,” said Michael Henesey, vice president of business development at IBM.

“You would think with resources like this, Rutgers and the industry with the state of New Jersey [will] be able to computationally serve those waves of data that are inevitable and upon us now,” Henesey said.

Kim Guadagno, who taught at Rutgers-Newark Law School from 2001 to 2009 before entering public office, said she attended the commemoration event to market the state of New Jersey.

Plans for the development of an advanced computation center, Innovation Park@Rutgers, are underway. The development is expected to cost $72 million, would create 722 direct and indirect jobs and absorb about $53 million in state gross domestic product by 2013, Guadagno said.

The University’s computing center would rank eight among the nation’s 62 scientific computer centers, Guadagno said.

By Jovelle Tamayo

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