Campus News Banner


By Dan Adkins

Small UK Logo

"This university has long been committed to being one of the nation's great research universities.  This class of high-performance computing capability is essential to achieving that goal."

--Doug Hurley,
associate vice president
for information systems

Small UK Logo

Aug. 4, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – The University of Kentucky’s new high-performance computer places UK 10th among all high-performance academic computer centers in the United States and 200th in the rankings of the top 500 supercomputer sites worldwide.

“We’re exactly where we need to be,” said Doug Hurley, associate vice president for UK Information Systems.  “This university has long been committed to being one of the nation’s great research universities.  This class of high-performance computing capability is essential to achieving that goal.”

The rankings were compiled in June by the University of Tennessee and Mannheim University in Mannheim, Germany.  The rankings are regularly updated.

UK’s new N-Class high-performance computer is capable of 169 billion calculations per second, a 231 percent increase over UK’s previous X-Class computer.  The N-Class computer  -- comprised of a “NCX cluster” that includes 12 HP N-4000 servers connected by a high-speed network – offers spectacular increases in computing capabilities.

For example, the new supercomputer has 50 percent more processors than UK’s previous supercomputer.  The new computer also offers a 120 percent increase in processing speed, a 500 percent increase in memory capacity and a 375 percent increase in disk space.  That level of research computing capability positions UK as a major contributor in national research and instructional innovation.

John Connolly, director of the UK Center for Computational Sciences, said UK’s commitment to providing state-of-the-art computing resources to faculty and students is key to its current leadership position.

"UK installed its first supercomputer and established the computational science center more than a decade ago,” said Connolly.  Equally important, noted Connolly, was the establishment of a financial strategy of continual funding to regularly upgrade core technologies such as the high-performance computer.

“That financial vision and strategy, driven by President Charles T. Wethington Jr. and Vice President for Information Systems Gene Williams, put us out in front in computational science,” he said.

Connolly noted UK is a partner in the National Science Foundation’s National Computational Science Alliance (NCSA).  Through NCSA – a cooperative coalition of computational and computer scientists in academia, government and industry -- UK collaborates with more than 50 U.S. universities and research institutions actively developing the information infrastructure of the next century.

A primary NCSA project is the development of the National Technology Grid, a high-speed computer network linking U.S. high-performance computers, instrumentation and databases.  When complete, the National Technology Grid will connect the nation’s treasury of innovative minds and most powerful computers to fuel the most potent knowledge-discovery team in the nation.

UK’s computing power is appreciated beyond campus boundaries.     As a beneficiary of a portion of the NSF $40-million grant to establish and support the alliance, other NCSA institutions have access to UK’s high-performance computer.

“We’re required to contribute high-performance computing time to the national pool,” Connolly explained.  “Researchers at other institutions petition the NCSA National Allocation Board, which matches researchers to alliance supercomputers.  In return, our researchers can apply for time on other institutions’ supercomputers.  Like people, some computers are better at some tasks than others.  The board matches the task to the computer that’s most capable of handling that task.  Basically, the research capabilities of all partner institutions are expanded.”

UK’s computing power also generates funding benefits.

“In this era, supporting computing excellence is a good investment,” Connolly said.  “For example, the total amount of grant money attracted by UK faculty associated with the UK Computational Science Center is around $10 million.  That’s for research that requires a high-performance computer.  In essence – and in the long run – the computer actually pays for itself.”

But the best benefit of UK’s computational research capabilities and leadership may well be seen in the caliber of UK students.

“As a university, our ‘product’ is our students,” Connolly pointed out.  “Because of UK’s foresight over a decade ago, we’re able to offer our students experience in working with the newest computing tools available, and mentoring opportunities with researchers who are developing new levels of computational technology and capabilities.”

Current projects by UK researchers utilizing the supercomputer include chemistry, fluid dynamics, protein structure, particle physics, and ocean modeling as well as projects in astrophysics, nanotechnology, engineering, mathematics, pharmacy and agricultural science.

UK’s new N-Class high-performance computer is overseen and operated by the UK Computing Center, a division of UK Information Systems.

Campus News Home