Super-size it: Rutgers says acquisition of a supercomputer will be good for university research, business community

From NJBIZ, By ,

Peggy Brennan, associate vice president of economic development at Rutgers: “We want to make it affordable for companies to utilize it.”

Manish Parashar (left), Peggy Brennan and Ivan Rodero collaborated on the effort to bring a new supercompuer to Rutgers. Parashar and Rodero designed the system.

Photo credit: Nick Romanenko, Rutgers

Rutgers University recently announced its acquisition of a supercomputer that puts the university's calculating ability on the international stage.

But the technology goes beyond giving its scientists new power to crush complex calculations.

According to Peggy Brennan, associate vice president of economic development at Rutgers, the new technology could be a benefit to companies of all sizes in all industries.

“Because the equipment is so sophisticated and expensive, it’s not something that, in particular, a small business could ever afford to purchase,” Brennan said. “And, even for larger companies, it’s an expensive piece of equipment.

“Plus, you need to have a staff that’s able to manage the system.”

The costs are prohibitive. Supercomputers can cost companies as much as $250 million. And that’s before maintenance. Or even energy consumption, which can be millions more annually.

Because of it, Brennan said, the New Jersey Small Business Development Council and Rutgers are currently developing an “Industry User Program” as a financial model for when the technology is made available next month to businesses throughout the state.

“We want to make it affordable for companies to utilize it,” Brennan said.

According to Rutgers computer science professor Manish Parashar, the school hopes to leverage its new capabilities by collaborating with private industry to train the emerging workforce.

“We can train students on how use next-generation technologies and capabilities to better address problems that are relevant to industry today,” Parashar said. “That’s really what we’re hoping to do — build a whole co-op and interactions of research and collaboration around this instrument that we have so that we can build better partnerships moving ahead.”

That’s because the new supercomputer connects Rutgers to a whole new generation of computing technology, according to Parashar.

“The reason we have been so excited about this is exactly that,” he said. “There are two aspects to it: On one side, it allows the physicists, chemists and biologists to do computations and calculations at a scale and a resolution that was otherwise not possible, whether that’s modeling an engine or a chemical process.”

The second prong of the computer’s capabilities? Helping the university’s partners and other businesses make sense of the ever-growing pool of data.

“The way we’ve architected was to add new capabilities for this data-driven world,” Parashar said. “We’ve tried to build a network in the computer that can solve these data-intensive problems.”

According to Parashar, this represents a shift that the role data plays in computer science, one that’s been occurring over the last decade.

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