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HiPerGator 2.0 Ranks Second Among Public University Supercomputers

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The HiPerGator rests in its containment facility on East Campus. One research project being conducted with the help of the supercomputer will help farmers identify the best crops to grow throughout the year based on weather patterns. Photo courtesy of Erik Deumens
The HiPerGator rests in its containment facility on East Campus. One research project being conducted with the help of the supercomputer will help farmers identify the best crops to grow throughout the year based on weather patterns. (Photo courtesy of Erik Deumens)

IBM’s supercomputer Watson beat Jeopardy’s greatest champion Ken Jennings by more than $50,000 in 2011. Erik Deumens thinks UF’s supercomputer HiPerGator 2.0 could beat Watson in a game of Jeopardy any day — while doing ten other things at the same time.

“Watson, as a computer, is actually a wimp compared to HiPerGator,” said Deumens, director of Research Computing at the University of Florida. “What Watson does, HiPerGator will do as part of its many duties.”

Deumens oversees the HiPerGator supercomputer, which was ranked the second best supercomputer among U.S. public universities and third among all U.S. universities on the TOP500 List on November 16.

The university completed an $8 million project in October to add 30,000 new core processors to the existing HiPerGator computer, more than doubling its power.

“They’re all connected in a very fast way, and they’re also connected to a very fast, very large storage system,” Deumens said.

Deumens said that the computer could store the equivalent of 1 million full-length movies and still operate efficiently.

The computer caters to departments all over campus, providing them with the ability to process data at a rate much faster than any desktop computer. Startup companies founded through the Innovation Hub at UF also have access to HiPerGator 2.0.

Ron Cohen is one of the many researchers who have made use of the supercomputer. Cohen, the director of the Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory at UF, uses the computer to study how the brain changes over time through the use of MRIs. The computer is able to detect the minute changes that occur over time and create usable data and maps for researchers.

“The amount of data is astronomical,” Cohen said.

What used to take Cohen and his team two months to process on desktop computers can now be processed in about two days thanks to the HiPerGator.

They’ve been conducting research using the supercomputer for three years, and the research being conducted has a lot of ramifications for patients with Alzheimer’s, HIV and other conditions, Cohen said. The faster the researchers are able to process that information, the sooner it can be used to improve the lives of patients.

Outside of Cohen’s research, projects ranging from the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle to how the English language is evolving on social media are all using HiPerGator’s processors, Deumens said.

“The fact that we have that diversity is probably the thing that excites me the most,” Deumens said. “All of these are so innovative and they all have the potential to impact society and the world.”

The future of HiPerGator starts with an unveiling ceremony on Tuesday, December 1 at UF’s East Campus. University President W. Kent Fuchs, a representative from Dell computers, and several researchers will speak at the event.

“It’s a celebration of the more than doubling of the power of the HiPerGator,” said Susan Crowley, the Assistant Vice President of Community Relations at UF.

After that, Deumens and his team will begin working on developing back-end software that will make HiPerGator easier to use for a wider audience.

Deumens likened the project to smartphone apps like Google Maps. Before the advent of the smartphone, people actually had to use maps and compasses to get from point A to point B. Now, they can ask their smartphone to take them anywhere, and it happens with ease.

Deumens said that he hopes that within the next year, using the HiPerGator will be just as easy, thereby increasing the ceilings of research projects across campus.

About Oscar Bergeron-Oakes

Oscar is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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