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  • it's SUPER, thanks for asking


    1 an article of a superior quality, grade, size, etc.
    2 of the highest degree, power, etc.
    3 of an extreme or excessive degree.

    a computer that is at the frontline of current processing capacity, particularly speed of calculation

    We visited the National Center for Supercomputing Applications on Friday, September 18th, here in the Urbana side of the campus. And yes I would say what we saw was definitely super.

    As you can already guess, the NCSA hosts several supercomputers right here in the campus of Illinois. The first part of our trip we were given a presentation by Merle Giles, the Director of the Private Sector Program, about how supercomputers are used. He was also helped by two alumni of our MSTM program, Evan Burness (class of 2010) and Ankit Chandra (class of 2008).

    So an example of what a supercomputer does is that it helps companies simulate a real life situation that would have been very expensive to test with physical simulation. The NCSA helped Motorola simulate a new communications tower with not just a sample of mobile phones, but ALL of them. Had Motorola chose to do it manually through physical tests, the bill would have been enormous and restarts will not be cheap as well. With the NCSA, millions of data are entered into the system for thorough testing and resets are easy to do. The NCSA is free to use for academic purposes and charges a fee for commercial usage such as the Motorola test.

    We also visited the Advanced Computation Building, three blocks from the NCSA building, to see the hardware of supercomputers currently stored in the facility. The upcoming project for NCSA is the Blue Waters supercomputer that will be online in 2011. The Blue Waters engine will have more than 300,000 cores in the processor. As a comparison, the common hardware available for personal computers right now has 2-4 cores.

    We also watched a small 3D presentation of graphical projects that the NCSA handled in the past. One of them was a simulation of the Chicago traffic over a period of time. Again millions of data are inputted into the system, clearly in an amount that normal computers would not be able to sustain, and a graphical simulation is shown for analysts and viewers to see. Other example would be a tornado graphical simulation and water currents over the Monterey Bay in California.

    It will be great to see Blue Waters online and ready in 2011, and what upcoming future projects that Blue Waters is able to sustain.


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