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September 29, 2003

Indiana, Purdue universities to join NSF 'TeraGrid'

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANAPOLIS and WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue and Indiana universities have been chosen by the National Science Foundation to join the world's most ambitious grid-computing project by linking to a powerful high-speed network and making available their supercomputers and huge storehouses of information to the nation's scientific research community.

The universities have received a $3 million NSF grant to create their portion of the network linkages that will extend NSF's "TeraGrid" to IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The TeraGrid is a prototype of the NSF's plan for a national research "cyberinfrastructure," a system of supercomputers, massive data storage systems and instruments linked by advanced networking and integrated to enable scientists to solve the largest and most important scientific problems.

The joint IU-Purdue effort will create a system within the state, called the IP-grid, which will enable researchers at the three campuses to collaborate with their colleagues across the nation on advanced high-performance computing projects. Purdue and IU will become part of the NSF's TeraGrid – currently a network of half a dozen institutions providing researchers with a computing power measured in the tens of teraflops, or trillions of operations per second – and a storage capacity of more than 1 petabyte, or a quadrillion bytes.

Flops stands for "floating-point operations per second." One teraflops is equal to 1 trillion math calculations per second. The TeraGrid's total storage capacity will soon equal 100 times the entire text and digital content of the U.S. Library of Congress.

"This important work will further Purdue University's investment in the technologies of the future, such as biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, genomics and information technology," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke. "The research made possible by the IP-grid will undoubtedly pay dividends to our state in terms of economic vitality and prominence in the years ahead. This initiative is another example of the advantage our state enjoys through having two great research universities that work together closely."

IU President Adam W. Herbert said, "The IP grid will improve collaborations involving IU researchers, particularly in the life sciences, hastening scientific discovery and aiding the development of new technologies. This grant adds yet another significant element to Indiana University's world-class information technology infrastructure."

Purdue and IU already operate an advanced optical-fiber network, called I-Light, which links the three campuses. The IP-grid will be created by extending I-Light to a TeraGrid node in Chicago via the acquisition of a new optical-fiber connection. Researchers from the campuses will then be able to collaborate with colleagues at other institutions in real time, as though they were in the same room or laboratory.

The joint IU-Purdue grant is part of a $10 million outlay for expanding the TeraGrid. The remaining $7 million is to fund two other sites led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Texas.

"These new awardees bring a rich mixture of shared computational resources, analytic tools and data assets that enable research and education at a scope and scale that was previously impossible," said Deborah Crawford, deputy assistant director of NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate.

IU is a leader in the creation of high-performance applications for the life sciences, and Purdue already operates a grid for researchers specializing in nanotechnology.

The TeraGrid was launched in 2001 with four initial sites: the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego; Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill.; and the Center for Advanced Computing Research at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In October 2002, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, at Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh, joined the TeraGrid.

"Being part of the TeraGrid will enable IU and Purdue to use supercomputers and other resources at those institutions and to become directly involved with work to further develop the network," said Michael A. McRobbie, IU's vice president for information technology and vice president for research. "This grant is yet another milestone in the continuing development of information technology infrastructure that supports advanced research at IU."

McRobbie and James Bottum, Purdue's vice president for information technology, have been designated by NSF as the project's two "principal investigators," meaning they are heading the Indiana effort.

"We will further enhance the already significant grid community that exists at Purdue in support of nanotechnology and bioscience efforts at Discovery Park, as our researchers work in collaboration with others across the nation," Bottum said. "We'll be able to both access and contribute resources."

The universities will provide both raw computing power and huge amounts of research data in areas ranging from global weather statistics to retail sales, and satellite data to chemical catalysts.

Through supercomputers and other computing resources at Purdue, IU Bloomington and IUPUI, the universities will provide additional capacity and applications, including:

• Sophisticated visual displays and specialized software for turning data into three-dimensional images;

• A large set of data containing thousands of years of global weather information;

• An entire year's worth of sales transaction data from one of the world's largest retailers, information that is useful for economists and social scientists;

• Data regarding chemical reactions to create and study new catalysts;

• A Purdue Terrestrial Observatory, which will provide real-time satellite data on quickly evolving changes in the environment during major storms, earthquakes and even terrorist attacks. The information could be critical for the first emergency personnel responding to disasters;

• A "crisis grid," in which researchers use simulation software to predict the likely outcomes of natural and manmade catastrophes, such as a bioterrorism attack, and develop the most effective plans to contain such emergencies. The system uses IU and Purdue supercomputers, connected via I-Light, to run the complex simulations, which predict factors such as how a biological agent would spread among the human population, how people would react and the likely response of emergency personnel;

• 1 trillion cycles, or teraflops, of computing power on a routine basis and up to 6.26 teraflops for especially demanding and important jobs; and

• Access to more than 400 terabytes, or trillion bytes, of storage capacity.

Purdue and IU will be able to further leverage the NSF funding to expand connectivity through funds made available to the universities via the I-Light2 initiative, an appropriation passed during the 2003 session of the Indiana Legislature to expand the optical-fiber infrastructure.

Funded through NSF's Advanced Computational Infrastructure program, the IP-grid will be made up of a long-term lease of fiber facilities between Indianapolis and Chicago, along with the equipment to light that fiber and route data traffic among the networks, high-performance computers, massive storage systems and advanced research databases within the TeraGrid members.

About IU and Purdue:

Indiana University is one of the oldest state universities in the Midwest, and also one of the largest universities in the United States, with more than 110,000 students, faculty and staff on eight campuses. Purdue University was founded in 1869 and has an enrollment of more than 68,000 students from 50 states and 130 countries. Both universities have growing national and international reputations in the areas of information technology (IT) and advanced networking. IU's and Purdue's extensive IT environments are made up of high-performance computing resources, facilities for massive data storage, and advanced visualization laboratories that enable leading scientists to visualize, analyze and store vast amounts of data and information. IU's two main departments of computer science include internationally recognized experts in high performance computing and visualization. Purdue was the first university in the country to offer a complete undergraduate curriculum in computer science as well as a doctoral program, and the school is an internationally recognized leader in the field.

Writers: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Christine Y. Fitzpatrick, (317) 278-1818,

Sources: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

James Bottum, (765) 496-2266,

Christine Y. Fitzpatrick, (317) 278-1818,

David L. Hart, (703) 292-7737,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: The National Science Foundation also has issued a news release. It is available online at or by contacting David L. Hart at (703) 292-7737,

Related Web sites:
Information Technology at Purdue:
Indiana University
Indiana University Information Technology
Purdue University

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