The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 30, 2019 1:00 am

IU celebrates upgrading to Big Red 200 supercomputer

Journal Gazette

Indiana University has acquired the fastest university-owned supercomputer in the nation to support its advanced research in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and scientific and medical research.

The new system, Big Red 200, is named for the IU Bicentennial and will replace the highly successful Big Red II Cray supercomputer, which began service in 2013 but is becoming obsolete, the university said.

Big Red 200 will become fully operational on IU's bicentennial anniversary, Jan. 20, 2020.

IU and Cray Inc., a supercomputer manufacturer in Seattle, made the announcement in early June.

According to a news release, what Big Red 200 could calculate something in one second that would take everyone in the state of Indiana more than 28 years – performing one calculation per second 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is almost 300 times faster than the original Big Red supercomputer from 15 years ago.

In 2018, IU was awarded more than $185 million in research grant awards directly supported by the university's high-performance computing systems.

The $9.6 million Big Red 200 system is funded by revenue from federal contracts and grants, and it will be housed in IU's state-of-the-art Data Center.

“There has been a huge growth in the use of AI in nearly every area of science in recent years,” IU Vice President for Research Fred Cate said in a statement. “Common to many of these is the application of sophisticated machine learning techniques to massive amounts of data. Essential to this is enormous computing power specially configured to optimize these kinds of calculations. Big Red 200 will bring this nationally competitive capability to Indiana University scientists and researchers and to the state.”

Big Red 200 will be the first of Cray's new Shasta supercomputers installed at a U.S. university.

Larger versions of these systems will be installed over the next few years at a number of the federal Department of Energy's laboratories as part of the Exascale Computing Project, which aims to develop the world's fastest supercomputers with Exascale speeds in excess of 1018 calculations per second.

“The Big Red 200 system at Indiana University will be an amazing resource for advancing AI, science and engineering, and will enable IU to play a pioneering role in the development of applications, methods and software for Exascale computing as a partner of Argonne National Laboratory and DOE's Exascale Computing Project,” said Rick Stevens, one of the leaders of the ECP and the associate laboratory director at Argonne National Laboratory.

“IU has got remarkable value from its supercomputer systems over the last 20 years,” said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “These systems are heavily used by hundreds of IU researchers, scientists and students in over 325 disciplines across the university, and they have helped fuel a rapid escalation of competitive research awards to IU.”

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