February 22, 2008
William Inman, 404-413-1355
Georgia State’s new supercomputer allows for cutting-edge research
ATLANTA – Eric Hurst wants to know who is really in control of our country, and the Georgia State doctoral student in political science is using the university’s new supercomputer to get to the bottom of it.
Georgia State recently purchased an IBM System Cluster 1350 supercomputer through a partnership program between IBM and Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA), a consortium of more than 60 research institutions.
Able to make three-trillion calculations per second, the power of 320 desktop computers, Georgia State’s new supercomputer is the latest addition to the school’s expanding inventory of supercomputing resources that will benefit researchers in various disciplines.
And if the new machine’s power wasn’t enough, Georgia State is hooked into a network of supercomputers through SURA that stands to quintuple the computer power available to researchers here.
Hurst will use the high-speed power to study the complete voting history of independent regulatory commissions such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to help determine how ideology and bureaucracy affect the nation’s policies and politics. He’s investigating over 5,000 individual FCC commissioner votes over a 25 year period, research that would take a month to run on a regular computer.
“At its most basic level, this project is about control,” he says. “More specifically, who is in control of the bureaucracy? Citizens of the United States tend to want a direct electoral connection between themselves and the people who are creating policy – a quality that is absent in agency activity.”
Hurst’s research is one of the several ground-breaking projects planned for the new Cluster 1350 at Georgia State. For example, Maryam Rahimian, a chemistry doctoral student, will use the machine to model new low-cost, highly-effective drugs for infectious diseases, such as malaria and sleeping sickness.
“The new supercomputer allows us to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t attack because it would have taken too long to do it,” said Art Vandenberg, Georgia State’s director of advanced campus services. “It’s the difference between doing run of the mill work that everyone else does and cutting-edge research.”
Last year, Georgia State installed its first supercomputer and linked into SURAgrid, a regional network of universities providing access to lightning-fast computing capabilities and opportunities to do joint research projects.
With more than 45 Georgia State faculty and doctoral students and 10 schools in the region using the first supercomputer, university officials knew they had to add more resources to meet the demand.
“We have a big machine already, so why would we need another one?” asks Vandenberg. “Because every time you expand the technological capabilities, researchers say, ‘I can do a more complex problem.’”
SURAgrid is a consortium of organizations collaborating and combining high performance computing and advanced networking resources to improve the research and infrastructure of the SURA region. The vision for SURAgrid is to orchestrate access to a rich set of cyberinfrastructure capabilities to meet diverse need of university researchers and educators. For more information on SURA, visit www.sura.org/suragrid
The IBM System Cluster 1350 is designed for a broad range of supercomputer application environments, including industrial design and manufacturing, financial services, life sciences, government and education. The IBM System Cluster 1350 leverages IBM’s extensive supercomputing experience to help minimize complexity and risk. Using advanced Intel® Xeon®, AMD Opteron™, Cell Broadband Engine and IBM PowerPC® processor-based server nodes, proven cluster management software and optional high-speed interconnects, the Cluster 1350 offers the best of IBM and third-party technology. For more information visit http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/clusters/hardware/1350.html
For more information on Georgia State, visit www.gsu.edu