This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Supercomputers named for rock legends

Center for Computational Research’s newest cluster named for Irish band U2

Published: July 28, 2005

Contributing Editor

It's only fitting that the world's greatest rock 'n' roll group has a supercomputer named after it.


Rock star computing power: CCR Director Russ Miller poses with UB’s newest supercomputer, U2, which continues the UB tradition of being named after members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"U2" has been selected by the Center for Computational Research (CCR) as the name of its newest and most powerful supercomputer, a 1,668-processor Dell high-performance cluster that will be used to support university research ranging from genomics to groundwater modeling to the monitoring of human-rights abuses.

In naming the supercomputer after the Irish super group, CCR continues its tradition of naming its computers after rock stars or groups that have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. U2 was inducted in 2005.

"U2 is arguably the greatest current rock band and a recent inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," explains CCR director Russ Miller, an amateur bass player and card-carrying "charter member" of the hall of fame, "so choosing U2 as the name for our biggest and newest supercomputer was a natural."

The center's three other supercomputer clusters are named (Janis) Joplin, (David) Crosby and (Graham) Nash. In fact, all of the center's 200 or so computers and related devices—including portable devices and laser printers—bear the names of rock 'n' roll hall-of-famers, says Miller, a UB Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

There are PCs named Springsteen and Prince, a key-pad entry system to the center named The Doors, printers named for legendary Motown songwriters Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier, and a laptop named after John Entwistle, the late bass player for The Who, Miller's favorite band.

Typically, the large community-based machines are named for rock groups while the smaller personal computers bear the names of individuals, Miller says. The computing center even shares the same acronym as another of Miller's favorite bands: CCR, a.k.a. Credence Clearwater Revival.

"When I was developing a name for the center when it was created in 1998, I was searching for a name and abbreviation that would be memorable," Miller says. "Once I came up with CCR, it only made sense to name all of the devices in the center after rock 'n' roll legends.

"It's fun and has served us well in terms of name recognition," he adds. "Computers typically have names associated with them, so a theme just made sense, especially a rock 'n' roll theme that aligns itself well with the young science of simulation and modeling that is done on these supercomputers."

In keeping with the rock theme, the center currently is helping a local production company develop 28 animated music videos for MTV using high-end visualization software and state-of-the-art gaming environments.

According to Miller, computer labs often use quirky themes to keep straight the identities, functions and locations of their machines. Comic book heroes, planets and stars, and science fiction characters typically are represented.

"A lot of places start with some sort of theme but it fizzles out," Miller says.

Perhaps they should try something a bit more hip, or hip-hop.

The Center for Computational Research is part of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.