Tulsa supercomputer to start work in September
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Saturday, June 23, 2012
6/23/12 at 7:52 AM
The idea of a supercomputer may not seem super to some, but OU-Tulsa President Gerard Clancy reminded people on Friday of one reason why they should be excited about the new Tulsa Community Supercomputer.
For starters, it can be used for the public good.
"We can predict where Tulsa's health will be 20 years from now," Clancy said. "How many people will need a liver transplant? How many people will need a kidney transplant? And we can from what is predicted be able to make adjustments so that we can be a healthier community."
It could also be used to address personal health problems, Clancy said, noting that the computer could crunch an individual's health information to forecast his or her condition 20 years down the road.
Clancy made his remarks on the 15th floor of One Technology Center - commonly known as City Hall - where university presidents, business leaders and city officials gathered to announce a September start date for the computer.
"This is not my day; this is Tulsa's day," said Barry Davis, chairman of the board of the Oklahoma Innovation Institute.
The nonprofit institute - working with Tulsa Research Partners - developed the supercomputer project and will operate the computer.
The roughly $3 million it cost to develop the project to its current state was raised through private donations, contributions from area universities and businesses, and federal grants.
Once it's operational, businesses, universities and others will pay a fee to access the supercomputer for research they would not otherwise be able to do on their own.
"The major theme of this enterprise is research to high-impact jobs," Davis said.
Oklahoma Innovation Institute will pay the city $118,000 annually to house the computer in One Technology Center. The institute will cover all operational expenses.
The computer, when fully constructed, will be one of the top 25 academic supercomputers in the nation and the largest community supercomputer in the nation.
"We use the word 'community supercomputer' because this is going to be available to academic, to business, to corporations, to small business, to entrepreneurial growth companies," Davis said.
So what is a supercomputer? It's not super big; that's for sure.
The Tulsa Community Supercomputer will begin with four refrigerator-size racks with pizza-box-size computers inside each. It will grow in size as the number of users increases.
"They are really fast, and they are really powerful," said Alex Barclay, who will oversee operation of the computer. "You might think of each of these computers as eight to 10 desktop computers."
The supercomputer is "not just one computer operating independently," he said. "It's 300 to 600 computers working together."
The idea of building a community supercomputer came about three years ago when David Greer of the University of Tulsa was asked to look into building a supercomputer for TU.
Greer soon realized that the cost of building a room to house the computer would devour 60 percent of his budget, he said Friday.
In talking to other universities and businesses, Greer learned that TU wasn't the only institution looking at steep costs to create their own supercomputers.
"So why are we going around duplicating and creating these, quite frankly, inadequate resources all around the city instead of working together to build one common resource that everyone can benefit from?" Greer asked himself.
That's when he picked up the phone and called the Oklahoma Innovation Institute, which has been working to make the supercomputer a reality ever since.
What is asupercomputer?
Supercomputers are made up of many computers that, working together, operate at a much higher speed than a single computer.
At its full capacity, the Tulsa Community Supercomputer will support as many as 600 computers executing more than 250 trillion calculations per second.
The computers are used to do research that can lead to new medicines, new technology, new consumer products and, often, new jobs.
Original Print Headline: $3 million computer to boot up in the fall
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
OU-Tulsa President Gerard Clancy: He says the supercomputer could help Tulsa in such ways as predicting organ-transplant needs