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EDUCAUSE

2013 Research Computing Constituent Group Meeting


Notes provided by David Stack, david@uwm.edu Ralph Zollota presented on the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. The effort is: - A data center for research computing - A partnership between 5 universities - A driver for regional economic development in Holyoke, MA Holyoke is an old milling town that has seen better days. It has its own hydroelectric dam so power costs are predicted to remain flat. The price for power is 1/3 that of Boston where some of the collaborating institutions are located. Land in Boston is also much more expensive. There is also a lot of local network connectivity, both commercial and higher ed. The computer room is a series of pods with 3 rows apiece for each university. Total capacity is 680 racks. Each university contributed $10M in addition to $25M from the Commonwealth of MA for building out capacity that non-consortium members can lease. There were also contributions from EMC and Cicso. The facility has no ongoing obligation to either EMC or Cisco. The total facility cost about $100M. The facility is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is owned by the five universities. It has less than a dozen staff. The initial commitment from the five institutions is for 10 years. At that point, a decision will be made as to whether to include additional partners. Overhead charges to grants will not provide sufficient funding to cover the costs; there has to be institutional investment. It is important that the partner institutions not compete on costs because that would prove to be a disincentive to researchers at certain institutions and they would try to do their work through partners at one of the cheaper institutions. The university presidents were initially at the table to govern the facility. Those responsibilities have since transitioned to the chief research officers and the CIOs. It can be demonstrated to CFOs that standalone clusters typically run at 20% utilization and generate additional costs for HVAC and electricity. In contrast, a shared cluster may typically run at 70-80% utilization. Day-to-day issues are handled by: - A faculty working group for research - Business and IT working groups for operations

The facility owns no computers. Hardware is provided by the research groups from the 5 universities and supported by university staff, not facility staff. The various universities are learning from each other and collaborating more on vendor management, storage, etc. Because the facility does not provide the computing cycles, it facility will not become obsolete in 3-5 years. A Research Education and Outreach Committee put out a formal Call for Proposals with $100K in funding from each university. You have to collaborate with someone from a different institution to get funded. Four of the universities shared in an NSF MRI grant and there is also a MA Life Sciences Council grant. For these kinds of efforts, one pod is set aside for shared resources. Each of the five universities needs to figure how its strategy for research computing, and the use of this facility in particular, fit into their overall governance structure. For example, the University of Massachusetts has five separate campuses of its own that purchased a cluster jointly. If a researcher has unique needs, co-location for pay is a possibility. Otherwise, the universities share in the overall costs of operating the facility. George Washington University got a group of interested faculty from multiple schools together to tell the story for building their $2M shared cluster. A similar process was used at UCSD.