Texas Advanced Computing Center

A $6 million grant will go to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT and its partners to fund the development and production of Wrangler — a new data analysis and management system for the national open science community.

The computing system is scheduled for production in January 2015 and has already been designed in principle, according to Jay Boisseau, the director of the computing center. Boisseau said Wrangler’s storage system will be large enough to store hundreds of national research projects in a safe and reliable way. Indiana University, a partner in the project, will have a replica of the storage system so researchers will able to access data from both.

“[Wrangler] will be the most replicated, secure storage [system] for the national open science community,” said Dan Stanzione, the deputy director at the computing center. “Wrangler will be one of the highest performance data analysis systems ever deployed.”

Boisseau said once the system is running, any researchers from any university or government labs can access it. He said Wrangler will be free to those who apply and compete for use of the system and said he hopes UT researchers will use it frequently.

“We hope that UT will embrace and play a large role in the sciences that develop,” Boisseau said. “We’re very excited to get a chance to represent the saying ‘What starts here changes the world.’”

Dell Inc. and DSDD Inc. are partners of the computing center for this project.

“Not all the technology for the system has been developed yet,” Boisseau said. “The two partners are crafting the system on site so it can go into production in early 2015.”

However, Boisseau said the computing center is the leader in the project because it has the high-end analysis site.

“We’re showing leadership in creating the most capable storage system with a unique analysis system,” he said. “We hope this will help establish TACC as a leader in the data intensive sciences.”

The National Science Foundation granted the initial $6 million award for the deployment of Wrangler, but Boisseau said representatives of the center made a request for an additional $6 million after the production of the system. He said the funds will be split by the partners contributing to the development of the system.

Bob Chadduck, from the National Science Foundation directorate’s division of advanced cyber infrastructure, said Wrangler advances the vision to tackle complex data-intensive challenges and problems.

“The National Science Foundation is proud to support the community-accessible, data-focused resources to advance science, engineering and education,” Chadduck said. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

The world of plant biology is a mouse click away from researchers at UT, thanks to a renewed $50 million grant that will help fund the iPlant program. 

The program is a website that builds cyber infrastructure to support plant and animal science research. Developed in partnership with the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT, it received this five-year grant to continue the project, which started in 2008.

iPlant works to provide tools for plant scientists, including ways to store data, create their own work environment for public use and share large data sets in one space. 

“We make computation and storage available to researchers,” iPlant deputy director Dan Stanzione said. “We also build some of the user-facing tools like web-based environments to make it easier for those doing things like genomics research.”

Specific tools provided by the iPlant program include DNA Subway, a way for researchers to predict and annotate genes, and the iPlant Tree of Life, which allows for a way to navigate easily through genomics and molecular evolution.

The renewed grant increases the National Science Foundation’s investment in the project to $100 million to advance researchers’ understanding of biology. It also allows iPlant to expand its scope to scientists who study crops and livestock and to continue reaching those from all levels of expertise.

iPlant is based at the University of Arizona and partners with the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“In iPlant, we’re trying to do all the other things that you need to do just between putting up a supercomputer and getting productive computational science done,” Stanzione said.

Many facilities, including the UT Genomic Sequencing and Analysis Facility, use iPlant for their computational needs.

The facility’s director, Scott Hunicke-Smith, said his center has used the program for more than a year.

“It’s a huge benefit to UT just to have that capability here,” Hunicke-Smith said.

Researchers can create free iPlant accounts to use tools such as mapping the links between genotypes and phenotypes, understanding phylogenetic relationships between all plant life and even using their own data to run tests on it.

Biology junior Eric Dawson is the only student at Texas Advanced Computing Center who works on iPlant: Benchmarking. Dawson works on installing and optimizing the applications to make them more accessible to users. He said the grant adds to the University’s research capabilities.

“It puts the whole world of plant biology at the fingertips of anyone who wants to use it,” Dawson said.