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May 23, 2012

University, IBM expand partnership

IBM supercomputerRochester will be one of the first academic institutions in the nation to receive the next generation of IBM’s high-performance supercomputers. The new system—called the Blue Gene/Q—is one of the most powerful and efficient computer systems in the world and will be part of a new center at the University dedicated to health research.

“This is an important step toward the creation of a resource that will make Rochester an international center for biomedical research and a magnet for research funding, scientific minds, industry and academic collaboration, and private sector job growth,” says President Joel Seligman. “We are proud to partner with IBM to showcase this exciting new technology and are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Lt. Governor Duffy, our local delegation, and the legislative leadership in Albany for their support for this initiative.”

“The collaboration between state government, academia, and the private sector in Rochester shows the remarkable progress that can be accomplished through the innovative partnerships we are developing,” says Lt. Governor Robert Duffy. “This partnership will create much-needed jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for the region. I commend Governor Cuomo for having the vision to establish the Regional Council initiative, and University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and IBM for providing a model for private-public partnerships in the 21st century.”

In 2008, the University created the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (HSCCI) in partnership with IBM. The same year, IBM gave a previous generation of its Blue Gene supercomputer system—the Blue Gene/P—to the University. Since then, more than 500 scientists at the University have used high-performance computing in the course of their research, and the center has helped attract $84 million in new funding, including a contract worth up to $50 million from the National Institutes of Health to create the Respiratory Pathogens Research Center and a $12 million grant to create a Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling.

It is anticipated that, over time, the partnership with IBM will continue to grow and ultimately produce the most advanced computer network dedicated to health research in the nation. Last year, HSCCI was identified as a priority project by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and received $5 million from New York State towards the $100 million project.

Access to computer systems that have the ability to analyze vast quantities of data—a challenge commonly referred to as “big data”—is widely viewed as one of the keys to advancing medical knowledge and innovation.

Supercomputing holds the potential to open new doors by allowing scientists to sift through and analyze huge volumes of data and create complex models and simulations that previously would not have been possible. IBM’s Blue Gene/Q represents the pinnacle of high performance computing and is 14 times more powerful than its predecessor. A single Blue Gene/Q has a peak performance of 209 teraflops—meaning it can make 209 trillion calculations per second. At the same time, it is expected to be the world’s most energy-efficient computer.

The Center for Governmental Research estimates that the HSCCI will create as many as 880 jobs at the University and in the community and generate $205 million in new research funding over the next 10 years. The jobs will be created through a combination of new faculty and staff hired to operate the center, growth in research funding, and by expanding existing and forming new industry and academic partnerships with companies that require access to the HSCCI’s unique computational abilities.

It’s anticipated that the Blue Gene/Q will be delivered to the University in late June, making it one of the first academic institutions in the nation to receive IBM’s next generation supercomputer. The supercomputer will be housed at the University’s state-of-the-art data center, which is in the process of undergoing $1.6 million in upgrades to prepare it for the new system.

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