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UB Center Receives $11 Million to Dramatically Boost Computational Research

CCR's power quadruples; its 10th year is its "best yet" for federal awards

Release Date: July 20, 2010

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Tom Furlani, director of UB's Center for Computational Research, notes that in addition to its research successes, CCR is a recognized leader in green supercomputing.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As it passes its 10th year in operation, the University at Buffalo's Center for Computational Research has plenty to celebrate: in the past 12 months, it has received more than $11 million in new funding, including two major competitive federal grants for advancing computational science and a New York State grant to make supercomputing more environmentally friendly.

The new grants further enhance CCR's reputation as a leading academic supercomputing center.

"In terms of external grants, our 10th year has been our best," says Thomas R. Furlani, PhD, director of CCR at UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and principal investigator on many of the new grants.

The new funds will support powerful, energy-efficient processors dedicated to advanced computational research at UB that will at a minimum, quadruple the center's computational power and storage capacity.

The grants will directly create at least four new full-time jobs at the center, plus additional, paid opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at UB.

"Indeed, this summer six undergraduates and two graduate students are working at CCR on a diverse range of research projects," says Furlani, who is also interim associate vice president for information technology (CIO) at UB.

"Just as importantly, the substantial expansion of the center's computing and storage capacity will allow UB scientists to carry out more complex and challenging studies, leading to scientific advances, and additional funded research and employment opportunities for support staff, postdoctoral researchers and students," he says.

New York State businesses will be able to access CCR's powerful, new supercomputers through the center's participation in HPC" (http://hpc2.org/), the statewide supercomputing consortium funded by the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) and consisting of supercomputing centers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, UB and Internet pioneer NYSERNet.

CCR's new awards include:

• A high-profile, five-year $7.75 million National Science Foundation grant to develop an active set of software tools and services to monitor the advanced cyber infrastructure of the National Science Foundation-funded TeraGrid, the world's largest distributed computing infrastructure for open, scientific research.

• A $2.5 million high-end instrumentation grant from the National Institutes of Health, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install new computing infrastructure to advance biomedical research. Scientists from UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute participated as co-investigators on the grant.

• A total of $1.2 million in grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that will allow CCR to reduce power consumption by 30 percent, cutting approximately $150,000 per year in energy costs from its budget, while simultaneously doubling CCR's compute capacity.

The $2.5 million NIH grant provides high-performance computing and storage infrastructure for research addressing such broad-range biomedical problems as studying the pathogens that cause potentially fatal MRSA infections, understanding how deadly brain aneurysms form and improving methods of cancer prevention and early detection.

The award will allow researchers from UB and its partners at RPCI and HWI to collaborate on these and other critical biomedical issues.

Furlani notes that while it's been only three years since CCR moved from the UB North Campus to UB's Center of Excellence in downtown Buffalo, the center already is a major factor in the ability of scientists on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to obtain federal funding. In 2009, well over $30 million in funding was awarded to UB faculty utilizing CCR resources.

"The past decade has witnessed a revolution in the application of information technology to scientific research and this new supercomputing equipment allows UB's researchers to compete on a level playing field with some of the nation's most elite research institutions," he says. "The new computing equipment will greatly expand our research capability, but more important to our success is the high quality and broad experience of CCR's support staff and expertise of UB's scientists and engineers, without whom these awards would not have been possible," adds Furlani.

The center's $7.75 million NSF TeraGrid award will have a national impact. The TeraGrid, which supports more than 4,000 users at more than 200 universities, allows scientists from all over the U.S. to carry out advanced research in fields such as chemistry, physics, molecular biology, meteorology, materials research, climate change and alternative energy research.

"The TeraGrid is a critical national resource," says Furlani, "and this high-profile award to CCR will allow us to develop software tools that will ensure that a system as important and complex as the TeraGrid continues to operate efficiently and effectively in order to maximize the positive impact of the infrastructure investment on science and engineering research in the U.S."

In addition to Furlani, CCR staff members with a prominent role in the project include Matthew Jones, PhD, CCR associate director and co-investigator on the grant; Steve Gallo, lead software engineer; and Andrew Bruno, senior programmer analyst.

Furlani adds that, thanks to NYSERDA's grants to CCR, the center also will cut energy use while boosting computing capacity by more than 125 percent. The new NYSERDA awards build on the success of previous awards by the agency to CCR that helped the center purchase new, energy-efficient supercomputers. Details on the center's energy savings and reduction in CO2 emissions can be found at http://nyserda.ccr.buffalo.edu.

CCR's pioneering efforts into green supercomputing recently were recognized by NYSERDA when it awarded UB its first annual New York State Data Center Energy Efficiency Leadership Award, recognizing leadership in pursuing policies and projects that promote data center energy efficiency in New York State. Furlani and Salvatore Guercio, CCR lead system administrator, went to New York City to receive the award last month.

The Center for Computational Research (http://www.ccr.buffalo.edu), a leading academic supercomputing facility, maintains a high-performance computing environment, high-end visualization laboratories and support staff with expertise in all areas of computing, including scientific and parallel computing, high-capacity data storage, custom software development, advanced database engineering, grid computing, scientific visualization and networking. CCR currently has more than 13 Tflops of aggregate compute capacity, dedicated solely to support faculty-led research projects at UB, and will soon undergo a major expansion to 50-70 Tflops of compute capacity and 600 Tbytes of high-performance storage capacity.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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