After six months of celebrations, Indiana University (IU) officially marked its bicentennial on Monday – and it saved the best for last, inaugurating Big Red 200, a new AI-focused supercomputer that joins the ranks of the fastest academic supercomputers in the world.
Big Red 200, which is replacing the 7-year-old Big Red II system, is a $9.6 million Cray Shasta system equipped with 2nd-generation AMD Epyc CPUs, Nvidia V100 GPUs, the Cray Slingshot interconnect and the Cray Urika AI Suite for Shasta. This new supercomputer, offering a peak performance of 5.9 petaflops, is 300 times more powerful than the original Big Red and around six times more powerful than Big Red II, a Cray XK7 system that had a peak performance just over one petaflops.
“Big Red 200 will give us [an] unprecedented amount of computation power to be able to train and evaluate … the latest state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning models and to be able to apply them to new applications in computer vision,” said David Crandall, associate professor of computer science at IU.
IU took the opportunity to highlight the many ways its researchers will utilize the supercomputer in other fields, such as high-performance genetics applications. “I am excited about utilizing the AI capabilities of Big Red 200 to accelerate the research programs in the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at the IU School of Medicine,” said distinguished professor Tatiana Foroud, chair of the department. “I believe this new AI-capable supercomputer will enable breakthrough discoveries across a broad range of research areas, including neurodegeneration and the study of Alzheimer’s disease.” Andrew Saykin, professor of radiology and imaging sciences at IU, said, “Where we had 800 genomes, we’ll now have access to 20,000 genomes. We need much more computation, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect for [Big Red 200] becoming available this year.”
IU also spotlighted a number of applications for Big Red 200 in the earth sciences. “Big Red 200 is a unique opportunity to do some really amazing work and really get high throughput, faster simulations, better simulations, in order to better understand how the climate system works,” said Ben Kravitz, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at IU. Natasha MacBean, assistant professor of geology at IU, said that Big Red 200 will allow them to “better test the models, constrain uncertainty and test future scenarios of how we use and manage the land.”
Initially, only faculty, staff and sponsored graduate students will have access to the supercomputer, but Brad Wheeler, IU’s CIO and vice president for IT, explained that IU hopes to make Big Red 200 more accessible to undergraduate students in any major.
Header image courtesy of Indiana University.