Supercomputer coming to Tulsa

The Journal Record
November 8, 2012

By D. Ray Tuttle

Dan Callaghan came to Tulsa this week to learn.

Callaghan, the western U.S. sales director for Fujitsu America Inc., was in Tulsa for the OklahomaInnovation Institute’s Tulsa Research Partners day. The symposium was the first collaborative research day among the regional universities, the city of Tulsa and the business sector. The event was part of the launch of the Tulsa community supercomputer, said Alex Barclay, director of the supercomputer.

Fujitsu is providing the servers for the supercomputer, said Callaghan, who is based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

“Tulsa is not a huge academic research powerhouse,” he said. “But, we wanted to see the breadth of what Oklahoma universities are doing and understand the depth of what the schools are going to do.”

Fujitsu, a household computing name in Japan, has a goal of shaping the future, Callaghan said.

“They do a lot of projects that are for the social good,” he said.

One issue facing the Japanese is that fewer people want to farm, Callaghan said.

“Their young people said, ‘I want to play video games or operate a supercomputer,” he said. “But the Japanese need to eat. So Fujitsu has created these cloud data centers and are talking to farmers about their craft – and they are sucking the brains out of these farmers – learning about watering, pesticides, the seasons and using their computer power to make farming interesting to the young person.”

The same is true in areas like traffic patterns and health care, Callaghan said, referring to using computer power to create solutions for society.

The same is true with the Tulsa supercomputer, which will be called the Tandy Community Supercomputer, Barclay said.

Barclay said the symposium, which was held at One Technology Center in downtown Tulsa, was sponsored by the Oklahoma Innovation Institute and its initiative, Tulsa Research Partners. The partnership includes the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, Tulsa Community College and the University of Tulsa. Oracle and Fujitsu are also partners.

One Technology Center, which is also City Hall, will be the home of the supercomputer, Barclay said.

The supercomputer, which will be capable of handling 30 trillion computations a second, is set to arrive next month, he said.

“Think of 18refrigerators next to each other, and that is how big it will be,” Barclay said.

The computers, about the size of pizza boxes, will slide into 7-foot-tall steel racks, said David Greer, executive director of the Institute for Information Security at TU.

“At full capacity, the computer will have 324 nodes,” Greer said.

In the beginning, however, the supercomputer will be about a third full.

Each node will cost $10,000, Barclay said.

The supercomputer will initially cost between $3 million and $3.5 million, Greer said. The schools and the Tandy Corp. are contributing about a third toward that initial amount, but Barclay and Greer declined to give a detailed figure as it will change.

The Oklahoma Innovation Institute will pay the city of Tulsa $118,000 annually to house the computer at the OTC, Greer said.

Oklahoma researchers and representatives from business and government sectors will present research that the Tandy Community Supercomputer will enhance, said George Louthan, a computer scientist and community outreach coordinator who was hired to teach people how to use the machine.

The supercomputer will be the largest of its kind in the United States, Barclay said.

A number of researchers and corporations have already met to discuss objectives relating to multidisciplinary collaborative research around Tulsa, he said.

“It should be in place by the start of the spring semester,” Barclay said. “Some of the areas it will perform tasks in will be medical imaging, aerospace, and physics, eugenics or the ‘tree of life’ and material science.”

And the machine will crunch public health data, Louthan said.

In health care, for example, the supercomputer will allow doctors to see the whole picture of amedical issue instead of few snapshots, Barclay said.

“Doctors are flooded with data anymore,” he said. “Yet, they need better analysis and this will allow them to look at a number of possibilities. It will save time, money and allow patients to have a better life.”