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Research Computing Center Grand Opening
Research Computing Center Grand Opening

University of Arizona Research Data Center Sneak Peek from UofA UITS Web on Vimeo.

Official Press Release: University of Arizona Unveils All New Research Computing Data Center

Tucson, AZ - Locked securely behind sturdy glass walls, the futuristic facility glows and hums with millions of dollars of some of the world’s most sophisticated computers, crunching massive data sets at a rate unthinkable until just recently. This ultramodern facility is The University of Arizona’s all new Research Computing Data Center. The Center will be used by UA research investigators to solve society’s most pressing challenges and to create new knowledge and opportunity.  On February 27th, 2012 the center celebrated its formal grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by UA President Gene Sander and other campus leaders. The center's grand opening was also featured recently on Tucson News Now / KOLD. The video for this report can be seen here https://vimeo.com/38053591

The Research Data Center (RDC) is a state-of-the-art computer hub housing five centrally funded research computers. The facility is the result of collaboration between the University’s Senior Vice President for Research, Leslie Tolbert; Chief Information Officer Michele Norin; and University Information Technology Services (UITS) Research Computing, Systems Administration and Data Center Operations.

“Research excellence at the University of Arizona depends on attracting the top minds in the world to our campus and supporting them with equally top-notch facilities,” said Tolbert, the University’s Senior Vice President for research. “As a research university, it is critical to the mission of the UA that we maintain a competitive position among our peers,” continued Norin, the University’s IT leader.

Thousands of Processors
Compared to a typical home computer which may have one, two or four processors at most, the five computers in the new center have over 6-thousand processors. With this equipment, huge research calculations are divided into many pieces to be processed simultaneously. So rather than taking days or weeks to run a research task, the same can be completed in hours or even minutes in the new UA research data center.

Nearly everything about the new facility is bigger, better and faster. For instance, while home users may be familiar with hard disks measured in megabytes or gigabytes, disk storage here is measured in petabytes – which is a quadrillion pieces of data: enough to hold 500 million iPod songs, or store enough high definition movies to run nonstop for over 26 years.

Power with a Purpose
Researchers at The University of Arizona use the new center in several ways. In some projects, huge sets of data are collected to be processed and analyzed. In other projects, researchers take existing data and manipulate it to simulate or predict what might happen in the future.

Viruses from the Ocean Floor
One research project using the Research Data Center analyzes newly discovered viruses collected miles beneath the ocean’s surface. By comparing the new viruses against a database of tens of millions of identified viruses, UA researchers learn more about them. The work could help protect valuable fisheries and endangered sea mammals.

In another project, researchers load enormous amounts of atmospheric measurements into the computers to run simulations that predict weather changes. This work already has the potential to enable accurate predictions of Arizona dust storms in time to issue warnings along busy highways.