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Research Computing Data Center Grand Opening
Research Computing Data Center Grand Opening

University of Arizona’s all-new Research Data Center is officially open for business. With a snip of the ceremonial ribbon, Senior Vice President for Research Leslie Tolbert and Chief Information Officer Michele Norin commemorated the occasion culminating a day of celebration and anticipation.

UA’s Research Computing Data Center, or RDC, is in the heart of UA’s Computer Center building. It is the high-tech home to five centrally-funded research computers now available to researchers, faculty and students all at no charge. After nearly two years of planning, construction and installation, the facility was opened with the fanfare of an exclusive “sneak peek” attended by campus leadership including President Eugene Sander and Provost Jacqueline Mok. Later, researchers and campus leaders attended a Grand Opening Luncheon with speakers including President Sander, Leslie Tolbert, Michele Norin, Susan Miller and keynote address by Dr. Joaquin Ruiz, Executive Dean, Colleges of Arts, Letters and Science.

The RDC is an exciting advancement that allows the University to maintain a competitive edge in the researching world and to make groundbreaking discoveries. “The data researchers can generate in a day in 2012 was unimaginable just a decade ago. Now the problem is how to analyze those data to make the most of the information they contain,” says Tolbert.

Just how challenging is that analysis? Susan Miller, Manager of Scientific Data Analysis for the Arizona Research Labs Biotechnology Computing Facility group, uses the HPC (High Performance Computing) systems for her data analysis. “If you can imagine a 400-million piece jigsaw puzzle and try to assemble it. But many of the pieces are identical on two or three sides, so it makes it really difficult to tell where they actually go. Machines like these allow us to put these enormous puzzles together”.

And those puzzles can be nearly incomprehensible with some data points routinely numbering into the billions or even quadrillions. The power of the new research computers can now deliver results in hours or days rather than weeks or months.

“They can get to their findings faster,” says Michele Norin. “It creates a quicker timeline to push those concepts out to the community, the state, even the nation.”

The Grand Opening events concluded with an open house featuring guided tours for visitors through the usually locked-down, secure facility. Leading the tours was Adam Michel, UITS Systems Administrator, Principal. “I like educating people on the magic behind the curtain. News hits us all the time about cures for diseases, development of new materials and discoveries in physics and astronomy that fundamentally alter the human condition but very rarely is there any mention of the facilities and equipment required to produce those advances,” says Adam.

The grand opening events raised the visibility of Research Computing on campus as investigators in an increasing number of disciplines consider its use. “We have had interest and discussions with researchers who have not previously used UA HPC systems,” says Dr. Michael Bruck, Assistant Director of Research Computing.

Much more information including examples of some of the research projects conducted through the RDC is available on the Research Computing website, rc.arizona.edu. A visit to the site can be the first step to becoming a member of UA’s Research Computing community of users.