Jay Boisseau

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. 

Director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) Jay Boisseau talks about UT’s new Stampede Supercomputer at the AT&T Center on Tuesday evening. The supercomputer has already powered many different science projects and is the most powerful model TACC has created thus far.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s new Stampede supercomputer, which has been operational since January, is capable of doing previously impossible science and making predictions that can save money and lives, according to Jay Boisseau, director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

The supercomputer, which has already powered 583 different science projects, is twenty times more powerful than Ranger, TACC’s previous model, and can perform 10 quadrillion operations in a second. Its construction and maintenance are funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Boisseau said while the technical capabilities of the computer are exciting, the projects that are enabled by them are the most exciting part of the new system.

Boisseau said Stampede renders hurricane forecasts with greater precision than older systems because it can simulate more small interacting units in a storm system in the same amount of time. This allows forecasters to narrow down the area where the hurricane is predicted to make landfall and help evacuation efforts.

“Hurricanes are a great elevator pitch for supercomputing,” Boisseau said.

It is also easier to adapt programs to Stampede than older systems.

“In previous generations of supercomputers, when you made that leap between academic research at a smaller scale to a larger scale, you had to relearn the actual way you talked to and interacted with the computer,” Greg Khairallah, an Intel business development manager, said. “With Stampede … it allows you to take the same programming constructs … and scale that.”

Khairallah said he found this essential to allowing more researchers to take advantage of Stampede’s power to process or simulate large amounts of data.

Rick Herrmann, a U.S. public sector field initiatives manager for Intel, said this is enabled by better hardware, including the Intel Xeon Phi processors that power the system.

Boisseau said having a supercomputer on campus helps UT as a research univeristy. Although 90 percent of the system’s processing time is allocated by the National Science Foundation, UT is allowed to decide how to use the other 10 percent of its time. 

Boisseau said the best part of the system is the National Science Foundation-paid staff.

“UT doesn’t pay for any of the people, but it gets their expertise,” Boisseau said.

Boisseau said since acquiring the grant for the system, other universities have been contacting him for advice.

“If you want to be the best research university in the country, you better have the best computational tools,” Boisseau said.

Published on March 6, 2013 as "Supercomputer expands frontiers". 

Senior Operating Systems Specialist David Carver adjusts a wire to Ranger, the largest supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Ranger will aid in the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment project’s goal to connect research scientists nationwide.

Photo Credit: Emilia Harris | Daily Texan Staff

UT is participating in a new nationwide project to connect research scientists with the supercomputers and other digital resources that make much of their work possible.

For the next five years the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, called XSEDE, will integrate advanced computational resources and services housed at institutions nationwide, making them easier for scientists to use, said Faith Singer-Villalobos, a spokeswoman for UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center.

The National Science Foundation funded the $121 million cyber-infrastructure, which includes the hardware, software, tools and services coordinated in this extensive network, said Singer-Villalobos.

“The digital services provide scientists nationwide with seamless integration to the high-performance computing and data resources,” she said.

Singer-Villalobos said researchers must submit a proposal for free allocation of resources, which will be reviewed by peers on the basis of their science and the impact it could have on society.

The National Science Foundation’s goal in funding the project is to enable scientific discovery by enhancing researcher productivity, said Barry Schneider, a program director in the Office of Cyberinfrastructure at the foundation, in a Texas Advanced Computing Center press release.

The project is run by multiple partnered institutions, including UT, and led by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Trish Barker, a spokeswoman at the center.

Barker said each site will contribute something different to the project, such as supercomputers, training, support, visualization expertise, data analysis expertise and software maintenance.

“The goal is to provide researchers all across the country, in many different fields, with supercomputers they can use, with data repositories they can access, with networking they can use to move things around from place to place and with tools for collaboration,” she said.

The new network will bring in new researchers and collaboration by solving incompatibility issues and eliminating technical barriers that prevent more effective communication, Barker said.

The project will expand on its predecessor, TeraGrid, which was also funded by the National Science Foundation and lasted for almost a decade, she said.

Jay Boisseau, director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center, said in an email to The Daily Texan that XSEDE has more resources and interfaces beyond high-end computing to facilitate a greater variety of science.

“[The program] will have a more balanced portfolio of digital services — massive data intensive computing systems and high throughput computing systems, different kinds of data storage resources, and more ‘science gateways,’” Boisseau said, referring to simplified user interfaces.

He said the move away from TeraGrid did not interrupt the approximately 10,000 users with active allocations, and those users gained access to the new expanded resources.

Boisseau said additional resources and simplified interfaces will attract scientists from a more diverse set of disciplines, allowing for multidisciplinary advances in science.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center leads user support activities for the project, which help researchers learn to use the new advanced technologies, he said.

“We provide high-performance computing systems, an advanced scientific visualization system and a massive data archival system for the national open science community,” Boisseau said.

He said the center participated in TeraGrid and has an even more involved role in XSEDE, since it has the resources and staff to support the projects.

“We want to help the U.S. maintain scientific leadership while enabling science as a global endeavor,” Boisseau said.

The new program will also focus on education and outreach to help deal with a declining number of people entering the scientific fields, said Samuel Moore, the education and outreach training program coordinator at the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

By participating in research programs, students ranging from middle-schoolers to undergraduates gain analytical skills that benefit them in any future career, and especially those related to engineering, he said.

“We’re giving [students] these experiences and these options so they’ll be able to make an informed choice,” Moore said.

Moore said national and economic security rests on this technology and the ever-decreasing number of people who know how to use and maintain it. 

Microsoft Vice President Dan Reed speaks at the AT&T Conference Center as part of the Austin Forum Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Microsoft Vice President Dan Reed regaled a full audience with stories of close friendships and portable cassette players at the AT&T Conference Center Tuesday night.

Reed, vice president of technology policy and strategy at Microsoft, addressed the megatrends of today as part of the Austin Forum, a monthly speaker series. Reed provided a helpful analogy to put things in perspective for his audience.

“Remember, free storage is like free puppies; the clean-up comes along with these things,” he said.

He also emphasized the economic and ecological toll our increasingly computer-based society is taking on the planet.

“Due to the great amount of data intensive discovery we see, it is not about being narrow and deep, but being broad and aware,” Reed said to The Daily Texan. “People who understand political science, economics, ecology and the qualities of life are necessary to adapt to the technological choices that we make as a society — it’s not only about knowing what to do but how to reform and communicate these choices we make.”

Reed cautioned that people cannot and should not avoid the consequences of technology.

“Technology is neither right nor wrong; technology simply is,” Reed said.

Jay Boisseau, director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center, found connections between Reed’s points and programs in place at UT.

“There is a need to learn to use specializations in collaborations with others — problems that face society require that individuals work together,” Boisseau said. “I consider Dr. Reed a technological visionary and mentor.”

Boisseau said the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education at the University shows the necessity of a continuation in education. The center fosters the broader knowledge Reed says is necessary, Boisseau said.

“A more integrated and rigorous curriculum is necessary,” said philosophy sophomore John Leahy, who attended the talk. “Convenience of specialization comes with cost and the University curriculum cannot be blamed. It is the responsibility of each student to go about [seeking] knowledge.”

New initiatives for the University’s scientific research and music programs could help students gain career-oriented skills and new opportunities to earn money.

On Friday, the UT System Board of Regents approved two separate renovation plans totaling more than $70 million for the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the Butler School of Music. The music school has to raise at least $20 million to start its new project. The center will attempt to win a $56 million grant under the unexpended plant fund — money that the University has accumulated over time to fund different programs, said Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer of Financial Affairs.

“[The Center] wants to apply to attempt to win a grant that would pay for the development and operation of the next generation of supercomputers,” Hegarty said.

Center director Jay Boisseau said they will submit a proposal on March 7 to win the grant. The grant will benefit the School of Natural Sciences because every scientific field involves extensive computational research, such as weather tracking and seismic activity systems, he said.

“We want UT researchers to have [the] best instruments,” he said.

The computational research resources will help graduate and undergraduate students who are involved in computation-heavy research obtain their master’s or doctoral degrees by learning to use the emerging technology for discoveries, Boisseau said.

“They [will be] better prepared for research careers and for careers in industries that use advanced computing technologies [such as] aerospace engineering, petroleum engineering, etc.,” he said.

The center hires 10 students every semester to help develop and support systems and assist researchers in using advanced computing programs.

The board also granted permission to raise a $20 million fund for the School of Music. Hegarty said the responsibility to identify and secure donors for the project lies with the school itself.

If the school succeeds in raising the money, Hegarty said a new building will be built in East Campus and will serve as a music academy for Texas youth.

“A lot of money generated from these lessons will go back directly to students,” Hegarty said.

According to the board’s docket, music graduate students earn $120,000 per year in financial aid by teaching 330 K-12 students how to play instruments. The UT Academy of Music is expected to enroll 2,000 students, which will in turn increase financial aid by almost $900,000.

School of Music Chair B. Glenn Chandler said they will solicit private donors who are interested in funding these kinds of projects. The state is not providing any funding for this initiative, he said.

He also said now that the school has the board’s approval to raise money, they will start making the efforts to reach donors and start designing the building. The project does not yet have a scheduled timetable for completion, he said.

“We would love to see construction starting within the next couple of years,” Chandler said.