International conference a showcase for Purdue technologies that help build research communities

October 31, 2011

The high cost of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 in loss of life — nearly 25,000 deaths — and billions of dollars in damage, this in a country that invests the largest amount of resources in the world to prepare for such disasters, was a loud reminder of the need to redouble efforts to minimize the impact of earthquakes.

Enter the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. NEES is a National Science Foundation-supported resource providing experimental facilities and cyberinfrastructure with the mission of accelerating improvements in seismic design and performance by serving as a “laboratory without walls” for research and education. To do so, it is using technology developed by researchers and staff professionals at Purdue and around the U.S.

A centerpiece is NEEShub, built on Purdue’s HUBzero technology, through which NEES links a worldwide community of earthquake engineering researchers and 14 experimental facilities, a central data repository called Project Warehouse, and tools for querying the data, as well as for telepresence, experimental and numerical simulation, and collaboration.

HUBzero and NEEShub are among the technologies being highlighted in the Purdue booth at SC11, the world’s largest supercomputing conference, taking place in Seattle Nov. 12-18. ITaP sponsors the booth, along with the Purdue student supercomputing team competing in the Cluster Challenge at SC11.

The booth’s theme is building communities for research and education, in part through technologies developed at Purdue, including:

  • The Community Cluster Program, in which ITaP partners with faculty to fund and build shared high-performance computing systems for research, primarily on campus but also on national research networks such as the National Science Foundation’s Extreme Science and Engineering Digital Environment (XSEDE). The Community Cluster Program has delivered nearly a half billion research computing hours since 2008.

    • DiaGrid, a Purdue-led distributed computing partnership of 10 schools that harnesses computers in offices, student labs and elsewhere when they aren’t busy and consolidates the cycles for research work in a model for academic cloud computing.
    • Purdue-led hubs for improving cancer care, (cceHUB.org); better understanding droughts and mitigating their impacts, (driNET); advancing electric vehicle technology (smartenergyhub); and advancing nanotechnology, (nanoHUB.org). NanoHUB is an international resource for nanotechnology theory, simulation and education with more than 180,000 researchers, educators, students and professionals now using it worldwide. In addition, the Purdue booth at SC11 provides information to potential students, research collaborators and funding groups. More than 10,000 people from across the country and internationally attended the supercomputing conference in 2010.

    HUBzero, which won a 2011 Campus Technology Innovators Award, makes posting and using computational tools about as easy as posting and viewing a YouTube video and brings access to high-performance and cloud computing resources as close as the Web browser. Built-in social networking features — like Facebook for scientists — create communities of researchers, practitioners, educators and students for virtual research partnerships and education.

    NEEShub allows researchers to collaborate using both computational simulation and physical experiments. NEEScomm, the NEES Communication and Community Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park, which manages NEES operations, has a staff of 11 working with ITaP’s HUBzero team, for example to extend data-management capabilities and to facilitate integration of the many new tools contributed by NEES users.

    “The effort of the earthquake engineers and IT team of NEEScomm and our Hubzero partners in ITAP is focused on meeting the needs of the earthquake engineering researchers and educators using NEES by deploying a robust user-requirements-driven cyberinfrastructure and in that sense HUBzero has been very helpful,” says NEEScomm Center Director and NEES operations chief Julio Ramirez, a Purdue civil engineering professor.

GlobalHUB, another hub with tens of thousands of users, facilitates an online community working to advance global engineering education and help prepare a workforce of globally competent engineers.

“HUBzero gives GlobalHUB the ability to share software tools and have students work together on one file, tool, or document while logged in from various areas of the world,” says Eckhard Groll, a mechanical engineering professor and director of the professional engineering practice office at Purdue. “HUBzero also enables posting and listing those materials in a user friendly and a timely manner.”

Other hubs at Purdue and elsewhere focus on assistive technologies for people with disabilities; environmental modeling; managing parks; simulating volcanoes; teaching the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math; and more.

“Today’s science and engineering problems are data driven and multidisciplinary with researchers working together across campus, across the country and around the world,” says John Campbell, ITaP’s associate vice president of academic technologies. “The technologies we develop at Purdue are designed to bring researchers together no matter where they are, along with computational tools they need for discovery.”

Purdue’s new Hansen supercomputer, activated in September, is the latest of four built for the Community Cluster Program since 2008 by the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing, ITaP’s research computing arm. Like its predecessors, Hansen is expected to make the next TOP500 list of the world’s supercomputers, to be released at SC11.

Researchers in earth and atmospheric sciences, chemistry, physics, computer science, aeronautics and astronautics, electrical and computer engineering and materials engineering use Hansen, which is named for the late Arthur G. Hansen, Purdue’s eighth president. Hansen, a strong supporter of high-performance computing at Purdue, died in 2010.

Writer: Greg Kline, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-494-8167 (office), 765-426-8545 (cell), gkline@purdue.edu

Originally posted: October 31, 2011