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August 16, 2011

University Cluster Rings in Benefits

Nicole Hemsoth

Clemson University has grown to become one of the South’s premier universities offering advanced high performance computing resources. This move to become an HPC leader is due, in part, to the work of the school’s CTO, James Bottum, who made it his mission to build the school into a high performance computing resource leader.

Bottum spent two decades in the research sector, with posts at the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in addition to the 10 years he served as CIO at Purdue University.

A recent article stated that Bottum is responsible for revolutionizing nearly every aspect of the university’s IT infrastructure, from clouds to classroom networks to the #90 HPC system on the Top500, Bottum showed how public universities can turn HPC into a valuable resource for students—and the university’s bottom line.

As an article in Network World stated, “The South Carolina school is now among the top five non-federally funded University Supercomputing sites. But just as importantly, the environment Bottum helped create is driving creative funding efforts, everything from attracting partners that want to use the system to sale of commercial software and new grants that benefit both the school and IT.

This shift to making the university HPC center profitable has resulted in “180% growth in revenue from external sources, which helps supplement the school’s IT budget, and a 250% increase in federal grants, part of which help offset IT costs.”

As part of this outward-looking focus, Bottum is leading the drive toward creating cutting-edge tools for the wider HPC market, including the formation and support of HPC grid computing paradigms, OpenFlow tools, and Orange File System developments.

OrangeFS and OpenFLow are two projects that have spun out of work at Clemson under Bottum’s tenure. According to Boyd Wilson, the university’s executive director of computing, systems and operations, the need for these tools came from the department’s challenges finding the right file system for the Clemson cluster that provided high performance and reliability.

According to NetworkWorld, the result was “revival of department work on the open source Parallel File System with the original architect, Clemson faculty member Walt Ligon who is working with a Clemson spin-off company called Omnibond that is providing commercial services for the file system.”

Unlike other high-performance file systems such as Lustre, which can only have a single metadata server, OrangeFS’ distributed metadata approach and unified name space enable the file system to scale nicely while also simplifying operations.

Full story at Network World