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UNT Insider | June 2009 Issue | New computing facility to boost UNT's research profile

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Powerful new computing facility to boost UNT's research profile

From a UNT News Service press release

computer lab

A new high-powered computing facility at UNT will provide a tenfold increase in the university's computational power and will be among the premier facilities of its kind in the country.

Once built, the new $2.2 million centralized high-performance facility will provide scientists and researchers with the tools they need to perform invaluable research in fields ranging from aeronautics to carbon sequestration.

"This is a huge step forward for the university," says Vish Prasad, vice president for research and economic development. "This facility will position UNT to compete for the biggest and most competitive grants. Only a handful of universities nationwide have this sort of computational power."

The computing facility is being purchased mostly with state incentive funds for UNT's success with the Closing the Gaps initiative and some internal funds. It will be installed this summer and should be operational during the fall semester, says Maurice Leatherbury, associate vice president for computing and chief technology officer. UNT purchased the computing facility from Dell.

The new facility will not only support the endeavors of current faculty, but also serve as a recruitment tool as UNT hires recognized experts in fields ranging from plant science to nanotechnology as part of the $25 million commitment it made last year to collaborative research.

"I can't even begin to describe how exciting this is," says Angela Wilson, associate professor of chemistry who served on a committee that evaluated computing needs on campus. "UNT will become an even bigger player in the university research scene. This opens up so many doors for our faculty and researchers."

Work across campus will benefit from the upgrade.

Before UNT acquired the new facility, researchers occasionally relied on national computing centers to run lengthy calculations, says Wilson, who is also a co-director of CASCaM. Those centers were so backed up that it took weeks or even months to get answers.

UNT researchers will now be able to run hundreds of calculations at once at great speed. To put the upgrade in perspective, UNT's current scientific computing facility consists of 50 nodes and 200 processor cores. The combined processing power represents about two teraFLOPS.

FLOPS is a measurement of a computer's performance, especially in scientific calculations that rely heavily on floating point calculations. A teraFLOP is a trillion floating point operations per second.

The new cluster will have 224 nodes, with 1,792 of Intel's latest processor cores. That will produce at least 20 teraFLOPS.

"High-performance computing capabilities are essential for us to make sense of enormous sets of data," says William Moen, associate professor of library and information sciences and director of research for the College of Information. "A university-wide investment is vital to UNT achieving the level of research we all want."

Sarah Bahari with UNT News Service can be reached at Sarah.bahari@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

June 2009

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