Tallahassee, FLA. — Florida State University has purchased what is at present the most powerful supercomputer owned by any single university in the world after acquiring an $8 million IBM system for its School of Computational Science and Information Technology.
The RS/6000 SP supercomputer is so powerful it will be capable of performing 2.5 teraflops – that’s 2.5 trillion calculations per second. It would take a person 2 million years to perform the same number of calculations with an ordinary handheld calculator, according to IBM officials. The supercomputer will be made up of 680 separate processors.
“This kind of herculean computational power will help our top-notch researchers make new scientific breakthroughs,” said FSU President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte. “This system puts FSU at the forefront of high performance computing and will help our students and faculty become leaders in computational research.”
Among other projects, FSU researchers will use the supercomputer to: predict hurricanes and other climate changes; compare DNA sequences as complex as those of the human genome; create artificially intelligent, environmentally adaptive computers and robots; schedule and manage air and telecommunications traffic; predict financial/commodity markets and develop risk mitigation strategies.
FSU professor T.N. Krishnamurti, an internationally recognized tropical meteorologist who developed the Super Ensemble hurricane forecasting method, has been guaranteed full use of the supercomputer in the event of major hurricanes.
“This supercomputer will place FSU well above any other university in the world when it comes to providing its students and faculty the latest, most effective and powerful means of scientific and computer research,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “The people of Florida and the entire nation will benefit from the research being done here.”
The system, acquired with funds appropriated by the Florida Legislature, will allow the new interdisciplinary School of Computational Science and Information Technology (CSIT) to meet its ambitious education and research goals, said Yousuff Hussaini, director of CSIT.
“Our goals are to bring about revolutionary advances in research through state-of-the-art high performance computing and to train next-generation researchers in skills that integrate advanced computing and information technology with specific science, engineering and liberal arts disciplines,” Hussaini said.
CSIT, established in the fall of 1999, offers high-level interdisciplinary courses to train students in the use and application of computationally intensive methods in their research. The school is focusing its research on six disciplines: computing sciences, basic sciences, biology, climate dynamics, hydrology and materials science.
“We see significant economic implications in this initiative,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lawrence G. Abele said. “More and more complex social and scientific problems are being solved through the use of computationally intensive methods. The education of students, trained in the development and use of these methods, addresses a major workforce need of our society.”
Larry Conrad, assistant vice president for technology integration, said the decision to buy the IBM supercomputer was based in part on the opportunity for multi-year partnership and collaboration with IBM Research. FSU awarded the contract in May.
“IBM is proud of the important research FSU is doing and proud to be the university’s partner in building one of the finest computational science operations in the world,” said Steven Evans, vice president, IBM Global Education Industry unit. “The unmatched power and scalability of the RS/6000 SP supercomputer will enable the university to tackle numerous scientific endeavors.”
Powered by IBM-pioneered copper microprocessors, the RS/6000 SP system is located at the Bernard Sliger Building at Innovation Park in Tallahassee. The initial configuration of 168 processors was installed in July, and 512 processors will be added by 2002 to complete the system.
The current installation ranks FSU as having the top university supercomputing capability in the United States. After the upgrade to the system in 2002, FSU will rank No. 1 worldwide among university sites, based on those currently registered with the Top 500, a list compiled by the University of Tennessee and the University of Manheim in Germany.
The system not only will be fast, it also will have tremendous storage capacity. With 413 terabytes of storage, the system will have enough disk and tape space to store more than five times the number of cataloged books in the Library of Congress.
FSU has long been a leader in supercomputing. The university’s first supercomputer was on the cutting edge when it was installed in 1985. It consisted of one processor and contained 32 megabytes of central memory.