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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

Embargoed until further notice

9-XX-07

Contacts:

Gregory Geoffroy, President, (515) 294-2042, geoffroy@iastate.edu

Srinivas Aluru, Electrical and Computer Engineering, (515) 294-3539, aluru@iastate.edu

Mark Gordon, Chemistry, (515) 294-0452, mark@si.fi.ameslab.gov

James Oliver, CyberInnovation Institute, (515) 294-2649, oliver@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu

Iowa State researchers part of $208 million supercomputer project

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researchers will be part of a research consortium helping to develop the world's most powerful supercomputer.

That machine's peak performance will be more than 10 quadrillion calculations per second -- 30 times more powerful than today's fastest supercomputers. It will also be able to sustain performance at the petaflop level of a quadrillion calculations per second.

Srinivas Aluru and CyBlue

Srinivas Aluru led the effort to bring the CyBlue supercomputer to the Iowa State University campus. He will direct Iowa State University's work with the Great Lakes Constorium for Petascale Computing. Photo by Bob Elbert.

The National Science Foundation announced today it is supporting the supercomputer project with a $208 million grant. The project is led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Thom Dunning, the director of Illinois' supercomputing center, is leading the project.

The IBM-built machine -- to be called "Blue Waters" -- will be based at Illinois and is expected to go online in 2011.

Illinois will work with the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation -- a collaboration of industry and academic partners, including Iowa State -- to take on the challenges of petascale computing.

"Iowa State University is pleased to be part of the project to develop the world's most powerful supercomputer," said Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy. "This is truly an indication of the strengths and expertise Iowa State has developed in high performance computing applications, virtual reality and human computer interaction. This is another example of Iowa State advancing its vision to build exciting collaborations that put science and technology to work."

Srinivas Aluru, a Stanley Chair in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Iowa State and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, will direct Iowa State's work with the Great Lakes consortium. Aluru led Iowa State's successful effort to win a National Science Foundation grant and bring "CyBlue" -- an IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer capable of trillions of calculations per second -- to campus in 2006.

Aluru and the members of his research group have been putting supercomputing power to good use. They've developed software that uses thousands of processors to build genome assemblies. That allows them to build assemblies in days instead of months. They're using the technology to help sequence the corn genome.

Aluru is ready for the jump to petascale computing.

"I was invited to a National Science Foundation workshop last year to discuss how the petaflop computer could be best put to use for the benefit of biological sciences," Aluru said. "I am looking forward to solving large-scale problems in comparative genomics and systems biology for aiding plant sciences and biorenewables research with the aid of petaflop computing."

Mark Gordon, Iowa State's Frances M. Craig Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and the director of the Applied Mathematics Program for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, helped bring Dunning to Iowa State to see how the university could contribute to the petascale computing consortium.

Gordon and Dunning share a background in theoretical chemistry and work at national laboratories. And so Dunning knew of all the work in computational chemistry that happens at Iowa State. Gordon has led development of a software application that allows chemists around the world to compute a variety of molecular properties. Theresa Windus, an Iowa State professor of chemistry, has also worked to develop another leading software tool in computational chemistry. And a research team of Gordon; Windus; Monica Lamm, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering; and Masha Sosonkina, an adjunct associate professor of computer science and an Ames Laboratory scientist, recently won a $1.6 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation to develop petascale computing applications for computational chemistry.

"They saw Iowa State as a hotbed of theoretical chemistry," Gordon said of Illinois' supercomputing center. "That's a field that's highly demanding of computer time. We are among the leaders of high performance computing."

But that's not all Iowa State has to offer the Blue Waters project.

James Oliver, the director of Iowa State's CyberInnovation Institute, said Iowa State has unique tools and expertise to work with petascale computing. Iowa State, for example, has C6, a six-sided virtual reality room. Oliver said C6 would be an ideal place to build interfaces that can display and work with all the data produced by the supercomputer.

Oliver said Iowa State's place in the supercomputer project allows the university to join what's been called the second revolution in information technology. That revolution -- according to Arden Bement, the director of the National Science Foundation -- will be driven by building a comprehensive cyberinfrastructure for the creation and application of knowledge.

"This puts us in the thick of that second revolution in science and engineering research," Oliver said.

That will make Iowa State more competitive when researchers develop research programs and apply for grants, Oliver said. And Gordon said Iowa State's involvement in the petascale project will help it attract and retain faculty and students.

Illinois' Dunning said, "Blue Waters will be an unrivaled national asset, dedicated to scientific research that will have a powerful impact on society. Our nation's top scientists -- simulating new medicines or materials, the weather, disease outbreaks, or complex engineered systems like power plants and aircraft -- are poised to make discoveries that we can only begin to imagine. Blue Waters and the scientists, engineers, technologists and educators of the Great Lakes Consortium are crucial to that success."

For more information on Blue Waters see http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/.

For more information on the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation, see http://glcpc.ncsa.uiuc.edu/.

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Quick look

Iowa State University researchers -- as part of the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation -- will work with University of Illinois researchers to develop the world's most powerful supercomputer. The machine -- dubbed "Blue Waters" -- will have a peak performance of more than 10 quadrillion calculations per second. It's expected to go online in 2011.

Quote

"Iowa State University is pleased to be part of the project to develop the world's most powerful supercomputer. This is truly an indication of the strengths and expertise Iowa State has developed in high performance computing applications, virtual reality and human computer interaction. This is another example of Iowa State advancing its vision to build exciting collaborations that put science and technology to work."

Gregory Geoffroy, Iowa State University president