In January of 1998, the Office of the Provost at the University at Buffalo, cognizant of the growing importance of computational science in science and engineering, formed an ad-hoc task group in "High Performance Research Computing". This group was comprised primarily of faculty members and staff with expertise in computational science. It was charged with evaluating the current status of computational science at the University, especially with respect to computing infrastructure. It was also charged with making specific recommendations of ways to improve the University's standing in the field of computational science.
In April of 1998, the committee submitted its final report in which it was unanimously recommended that the University establish a Center for Computational Research, and outfit the Center with a high-performance multiprocessor computer, a visualization laboratory, and support staff. The University supported the findings of the committee, and in January of 1999 announced the established of the Center for Computational Research and appointed Dr. Russ Miller as its Founding Director.
Computational science is an emerging discipline that unites computer science and mathematics with disciplinary research in biology, chemistry, physics, and other applied and engineering fields. It is recognized by the National Science Foundation as the third science, complementing theoretical science and laboratory science. Computational science requires a collaborative effort across traditional academic disciplines. Work in computational science can lead to significant advances in areas such as biotechnology, pharmaceutical drug discovery, materials science, high energy physics and global climate change.
One of the major focuses of computational science is on the knowledge and techniques required to perform computer simulation and modeling. In fact, in the design of automobiles and airplanes, simulation is being exploited in an effort to reduce the costs of prototypes, test models, and wind tunnel testing.
Programs in computational science are widespread at Universities and Colleges, and are being introduced into the K-12 curriculum. The National Science Foundation supports computational science, claiming that it is "proving to be an effective way to generate new knowledge."
Taken together, the supercomputers were capable of carrying out more than 60 billion operations per second (60 Gflops). In terms of computing power, this supercomputing facility placed UB in the top 10 of such facilities at universities in the United States. In addition to the computational resources, at the time of its inception, the Center had 5 support personnel including then Associate Director, Dr. Thomas Furlani, 2 computational scientists (including Dr. Matt Jones, who currently serves as Associate Director), and 2 programmer/analysts.
CCR is short for the Center for Computational Research as well as Creedence Clearwater Revival a music band made popular in the 1960s & 70s. The Center's founding director is a big fan of the group CCR so it was decided to name all networked devices after people or bands who have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Original CCR clusters were nicknamed: Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.
In September of 1998, the National Science Foundation awarded a $300K Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant to UB researchers Russ Miller, Philip Coppens, Thomas Furlani, Harry King, and Jiali Gao to support their work in chemistry and molecular biology. These funds, along with $519K from the University, and a special $1 million dollar equipment grant from SGI provided the resources necessary for the Center to obtain the 64 processor SGI Origin 2000. The equipment grant from SGI, which consisted of 32 processors, was the first ever of its kind to an academic institution.
Also in September, IBM awarded a prestigious $1.2 million dollar Shared University Research (SUR) grant to the Center. The $1.2M SUR grant, coupled with a $1M investment from New York State secured by Senior Vice President Robert Wagner and Senior Associate Vice President for University Services Voldemar Innus, was used to purchase the Center’s IBM RS/6000 SP.
Sun Microsystems also donated a $300K entry-level 2 processor Sun Enterprise 6000 computer to the Center.