ITaP seeking volunteers to help build Purdue's next supercomputer

I'm interested in attending

July 1, 2009

Think of the fun of unboxing a new computer, plugging in the keyboard, mouse and monitor and finding out what the speed demon, relative to last year’s model, can do. Now, ITaP is looking for volunteers who want to multiply their new computer pleasure by hundreds of times.

         Purdue’s central information technology organization will hold an installation day for the University’s latest research supercomputer from 8 to 4 p.m. July 21. 

         On installation day, volunteers will assemble at the welcome tent in front of Felix Haas Hall, behind the Elliott Hall of Music and off University Street between Second and Third streets. HP, which won the bidding to supply the computers for Coates, will provide lunch.

A volunteer meeting will be held July 17 to explain the plan for installation day.

         ITaP needs people with experience installing rack-mounted computers, hardware such as expansion cards inside machines and cabling. But general help unpacking and moving equipment, recycling packaging materials and cleaning up also is needed.

Last year, more than 250 staff members and volunteers assembled the new “Steele” cluster. Some volunteers even came from rival Indiana University, attracted by the idea of building an 18 wheeler-sized supercomputer in a day, a process that normally takes weeks. The high-tech barn raising generated national media attention.

Coates is designed to exceed Steele in capability, with up to 1,280 separate rack-mounted computers linked together to create one big supercomputer and fast 10 Gigabit Ethernet networking. The new cluster is being named for Clarence L. “Ben” Coates, a driving force behind the high-performance computing and networking plan that led to the creation of the Engineering Computer Network for Purdue’s engineering schools.

Through “community clustering,” ITaP pools funds from grants, faculty startup packages and institutional sources to make more computing power available than faculty and campus units could afford individually for major engineering, science and social science research projects. ITaP installs, administers and maintains those systems, including security, so researchers can concentrate on doing research not on running a high-performance computing system.

         One goal of community clustering is maximizing the use of resources by sharing computing power researchers use only part of the time with their peers, who can make use of it during what might otherwise be idle time. Researchers always have access to the computing power they purchase, and potentially more if they need it. The combining of orders also attracts a better price from vendors. Purdue saved more than a half million dollars on Steele.

Writer: Greg Kline, ITaP science and technology writer, 49-48167,

Originally posted: July 1, 2009