How UF’s New Supercomputer Concludes 70-Year Studies Within Hours

By and on August 5th, 2013
Erik Deumens and the UF HiPerGator on Waldo Road

Kasey Greenhalgh

Erik Deumens and the UF HiPerGator in an East Campus building on Waldo Road.

Behind the padlocked doors of one building on UF’s East Campus, 2008 NE Waldo Road, is a loud machine capable of reading the millions of volumes on UF’s library shelves several hundred times in one second.

In an oversized temperature-controlled room, columns of silicon, copper, plastics, fiber, metallics and more make up this powerful machine. Erik Deumens, director of Research Computing at UF, said its speed and power qualifies it to compete with the country’s best technology.

Deumens collaborated for more than a year with other computer science professors and engineers to create HiPerGator.

The units that run the system cost $3.4 million dollars to build. They left plenty of empty room for growth and constructed a ventilation system to keep the equipment from overheating.

“The building is divided into two parts,” Deumens said, “from the bottom to the top to separate the two machine rooms and that room is rated as a very high security.”

HiPerGator, one of the top 10 fastest supercomputers in the nation has already completed tasks. One of its first major tasks was to find adverse effects from 140,ooo drugs on 2,800 different types of people. If researchers had taken the individual time and manpower to do the study themselves, it would have taken 69 years. HiperGator completed the entire task with results in 50 hours.

“I would say the HiPerGator part of the project is completed. Now we need to take the results from the HiperGator and go into the lab and try and validate the results,” said David Ostrov, associate professor for the Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine.

Ostrov is also trying to find what boosts immune systems to fight diseases and cancer. He says HiPerGator has sped up diabetes and cancer research faster than he ever dreamed.

Ostrov hopes to know within the next year whether or not this strategy is going to be useful for boosting immune responses against tumors. He says he’s thrilled to be part of something so monumental and expects the results will be used in clinics within the next five years.

Last year, Internet2, which oversees the progress of every research university in the U.S., suggested all research universities be connected at a faster bandwith. With help from Dell and Terascala, UF’s team was able to give HiPerGator the computing power to chomp data at 150 trillion calculations per second and supply almost three quadrillion megabytes of storage.

Deumens said multiple grants from university funding and faculty buy-in are coming. They are expecting to purchase more power generators and computers this fall, and continue to buy new products every three to six months based on need or demand.

The High Performance Computing Center or HPC puts on presentations every week or so to teach people how to use the supercomputer and show easy tricks to maneuver through its system.

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