November 18, 2008
Purdue and IU become computing teammatesWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University is adding to what is already the world's largest science-focused distributed computing system with the addition of computers from athletics rival, but longtime computing and research collaborator, Indiana University.
IU is linking nearly 5,000 computers from its research pool to Purdue's national computing grid, which is known as Diagrid. Notre Dame, Indiana State University and Purdue's Calumet regional campus are already contributors in the effort in the Hoosier state.
Diagrid also will soon include computers from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Purdue North Central.
Purdue President France A. Córdova says the collaboration will help boost high-tech research in Indiana.
"The computer grid is yet another example of the two universities working together," Córdova says. "The state's universities share a vision of the kind of modern infrastructure - one built for bits and bytes, and not just for cars and bikes - that is needed to bring businesses and top faculty to our state."
IU President Michael McRobbie agrees.
"The state's investment in the I-Light network enables this collaboration between Purdue and IU to aggregate computing power to advance research in Indiana," he says.
Brad Wheeler, IU's vice president for information technology and chief information officer, also affirmed the collaboration's value.
"This not only provides millions of hours of computer cycles, but it also gives researchers ready access to software and tools at other universities," he says. "For example, areas in life science such as bioinformatics and structural biology require an enormous amount of computing. By combining our resources, IU and Purdue ensure that our researchers in these areas have world-leading computational resources available to them at any time."
Diagrid works something like a supercomputing screen-saver. When users are away from their computers, even for as little as a minute, science jobs waiting for computing time are started on the machine. This allows computing resources to be harnessed when the user has gone home for the evening, left for vacation, or even just gone down the hall for a meeting.
To accomplish this, the science jobs must be broken into thousands of pieces or, in the terminology of technology, highly parallelized. Not all research can be done this way, but an increasing number of science projects and software packages are being designed to work with parallel computing systems.
The system based at Purdue has been used to study the characteristics of viruses, identify new industrial chemicals and produce scientific model animations.
Gerry McCartney, Purdue's vice president for information technology and chief information officer, says the new computing grid will continue to build and expand.
"We named this national computing grid Diagrid after the type of girder arrangement used in modern skyscrapers," McCartney says. "It's an apt metaphor. We're building a computing infrastructure that scientists and engineers can use to make monumental discoveries."
McCartney says the benefits and reputation of Diagrid will extend beyond the state's borders.
"This is an example of the sum being greater than the individual parts," he says. "Diagrid is a new, national resource for science. Experiments will be conducted using this computing grid that could not have been done before."
Diagrid is operated using the open-source software Condor, which was developed at the University of Wisconsin. Condor flocks, as computer pools running the software are known, are linked via I-Light, Indiana's high-speed, fiber-optic network, which is jointly managed by IU and Purdue.
The computing resources from Diagrid are made available to scientists across the United States via the National Science Foundation's TeraGrid high-speed network.
In 2007 the Purdue pool alone ran 10 million hours of scientific research - hours that otherwise would have been wasted.
"This is a resource that performs a massive amount of work in science and engineering," McCartney says. "Frankly, it's a resource that is too often wasted across the nation. Here in Indiana, we're working together to make sure that we're using our resources as efficiently as possible."
Purdue and IU also jointly operate a 20-teraflop supercomputer, which is used for activities related to economic development, and have collaborated on a number of research proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation.
Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Bradley Wheeler, (812) 856-5595, email@example.com
Gerry McCartney, (765) 496-2270, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
To the News Service home page