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March 7, 2011

Businesses Soon to Sample Maine’s Supercomputing CIDER

Nicole Hemsoth

The University of Maine envisions opportunities for businesses around the state to have access to sophisticated computational resources that might otherwise be unobtainable due to cost and a lack of expertise.

An effort led by the state’s university system called Cyberinfrastructure Investment for Development, Economic Growth and Research (CIDER) just received a $250,000 grant from the Maine Technology Institute to start stringing together 500-700 machines into a new supercomputer dedicated to serving public and private sector organizations.

According to Bruce Segee, director of the project and associate professor of computer and electrical engineering at the university, the idea is to turn the supercomputer into a cloud-based resource or a “central hub where companies’ applications and data could live, completely separate from the physical computing hardware in their offices.”

As a report today in Maine’s Business Source magazine noted, CIDER is “one piece of a broader vision for expanding Main’s cyberinfrastructure, aiding not only Maine businesses, but ideally providing a competitive advantage to attract new ones. “

The author notes that Maine has a rather unique, unexpected advantage that might make it more attractive to companies that have formerly rented space in out-of-state datacenters on the power and cost front—paper mills.

As Jackie Farwell explains, “power represents roughly 90% of the cost of operating a datacenter. By sharing space with a mill, a center could run on the affordable, reliable power generated by the mill through hydropower and biomass. That would also serve as a boon for the mill, which could sell the power to the center free of any distribution costs.”

Farwell also notes that paper mills are most often located in rural areas, which provide a perfect location “for computing warehouses that most of their customers never visit and cold Maine river water is ideal for cooling the centers.”

Full story at MaineBiz