U. Rhode Island Joins a High-Performance Computing Center in Massachusetts

The University of Rhode Island is the first out-of-state university to join a high-performance computing center in Massachusetts, providing opportunities to partner with five research universities, URI director of research computing Gaurav Khanna told EdScoop.

The university announced plans on Tuesday to join the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern, MIT, Harvard and Boston University. Because the institutions use the same type of technology, Khanna said, sharing the same data center could help solve problems and spark conversations between researchers as they surround themselves with what he called a “virtual water cooler.”

“There could be different strengths that can bring these different groups together, maybe different ingredients that make the models better, and that would really spur a brand new collaboration, probably resulting in a new program or a new proposal for funding,” Khanna said.

The center will allow member universities to expand research capacity without paying for the infrastructure to maintain equipment, Khanna said. High-performance computing research gained popularity during the coronavirus pandemic because it can be performed remotely, he said, but the hardware requires a significant amount of power and must remain cool.

“It would probably cost millions of dollars to renovate a building that would house some of these machines that we would like to have on campus for researchers to use,” Khanna said. “And it’s also something that’s been noticed by many campuses nationwide – that it’s hard to get the infrastructure funding you want to renovate the centers and maintain them and keep them up to standard. That not only requires a lot of staff, but also to run them.”

Serving more than 20,000 users, the computing center offers researchers remote access to conduct research and model things like ocean pollution or biological cell dynamics.

URI plans to install its own high-performance computing technology downtown and invest $1.5 million in additional hardware for regional collaborations, according to a press release.

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