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Central Washington University

Area’s Most Powerful Supercomputing Cluster now Operational at CWU

The name is Turing. It embodies the most powerful computing capability anywhere in central Washington. And the new system is now operational at CWU.

“This is a computer cluster, not just ‘a computer,’” explained Razvan Andonie, computer science professor. “Not many people have this.”

That’s because the first model of the new system was just released last fall. It consists of four IBM Power Systems S822LC, each known as “Minsky.”

While not household names, they are important references. Alan Mathison Turing, a British mathematician and computer scientist, is considered the Father of the Modern Computer. He is acclaimed for pioneering the multi-purpose computer functionality that we still employ today back in the 1930s. Marvin Lee Minsky was an American cognitive scientist and artificial intelligence researcher.

“This computer cluster will mainly be used for research, including student research,” noted Andonie, director of the CWU’s computational science master’s program. “Most likely, the science departments from COTS [College of The Sciences] will benefit from it.”

Those include computer science, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics, and physics. The supercomputer was acquired by and is administered through COTS.

“The aim is to provide specialized, collaborative computing capabilities for COTS,” Andonie added. “But it will serve the whole university at some point. It is an indicator of the value the university places on our overall computer program.”

The $380,000 system, purchased through Sirius Computer Solutions, is a significant upgrade for the college, specifically, and university, in general.

“For image recognition tasks, like person identification, it is in the order of 10 times to 100 times faster than a regular desktop,” Andonie pointed out. “It accelerates especially for applications that can run in parallel.”

That is important for research pertaining to large data sets and computer-intensive applications, such as big data analytics—examining large and varied data sets for useful information—cybersecurity, and deep learning, which involves machines using algorithms to develop analytical models, which then assist computers in “learning” from data.

Andonie’s current research areas are in that field, and include cognitive computing, computational intelligence, machine learning, neural networks, and parallel computing.

“I’m especially interested in applications and in implementing computational intelligence solutions on massively parallel and distributed architectures,” he said.

CWU is Washington’s first regional, comprehensive university to acquire such a powerful supercomputer. Within the state, the University of Washington and Washington State University have the others.

“We already have students working on the system,” Andonie said, with a note of pride. “It is quite rare even for CS [computer science] students to have access to such a machine. Such a computer will also be of interest to new students. This is very important and it should attract more students.”

CWU Information Services (IS) and the university’s Facilities Management Department also were key partners in the project, noted Andreas Bohman, the university’s chief information officer. Their participation involved, in part, providing technical knowledge and site preparation work, including needed power infrastructure improvements, fiber-optic cabling, and 10-gigabit networking extensions.

“IS also supported the IBM on-site deployment team by providing system and network management, and administration during the installation and configuration of the hardware and operating environment,” stated Bohman.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu

June 28, 2017

Photo: Dr. Razvan Andonie looking at Turing

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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