[CSG Spring 2008] Cyberinfrastructure Workshop – Funding for CI – Three Success Stories


Steve Cawley – University of Minnesota

The CIO’s job – get the money. What has worked at Minnesota, what doesn’t work? What are we doing to move forward?

Three centrally funded research areas –

the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute. $6.5 million budget to provide high-performance computing to institution. Moving from engineering/science college to VP for Research.

Central IT – Network is a common good. Unified gig to the desk meshed 10 gig backbone. BOREAS-net 2100 mile owned optical network connecting to Chicago and Kansas City. Chicago CIC fiber ring and OMNIPOP. NLR and Internet2.

Had good luck funding SAN storage for researchers past three years. Received startup funding for server centralization utilizing virtualization. New data center plan central IT plus research.

University Library – expanding expertise including data collection and curation, data preservation and stewardship. VIrtual organization tools. University Digital Conservancy. Rich Media Services.

Problems – limited collaboration between researchers.

Heavy reliance on chargeback is a detriment. Central IT was 80% chargeback, now only 20% is chargeback. Common good services should be centrally funded.

Moving forward – the Research Cyberinfrastructure Alliance. Great exec partnership – VP for Research, CP for Tech, U Librarian. Try to speak with one voice.

Input from interviews with faculty. Large storage needs. Little thought being given to long term data preservation. University does not exist in a vacuum.

Julian Lombardi – Duke

Center for Computational Science Engineering and Math (CSEM) – Visualization Lab, Duke Shared Cluster Resource – blades donated to cluster. Those who donated got priority cycles.

Provost discontinued funding to the center. Cluster and Vis Lab were still being supported by OIT and departments.

Needs are – broad and participatory direction setting; support for emerging and inter-disciplines.

Bill Clebsch – Stanford – Cyberinfrastructure: A Cultural Change

Religious camps blocking progress.

There were three separate campus – the schools, the faculty, and the administration. Everyone pretending that computing can be managed locally.

Asked the Dean of Research to send out letters to the top fifty researchers. Spent time with each of them to find out what the state of computing is.

Exploding Urban Myths – when they talked to faculty found out that the received wisdom wasn’ ttrue.

Myths and facts #1 – myth: scientific research computing methodology has not fundamentally changed (heard from Provost). Fact: researchers’ computational needs have changed fundamentally in the last five years, increased computing availability itself directly yields research benefits, researchers have abandoned the notion that computing equipment needs to be down the hall.

Myths and Facts #2: Myth: faculty needs are highly specialized and cannot be met with shared facilities. Fact: Faculty are willing to share resources, clusters, and cycles. Research methodologies are surprisingly similar regardless of discipline (e.g. larger data sets; simulation studies; from shared memory to parallelism). Episodic nature of research computing allows for coordinated resource sharing.

Myths and Facts #3: Myth: distributed facilitie scan keep pace with demand. Fact: Lessons learned from BioX Program: running out space, cycles, cooling, and power. Cross-disciplinary facility economies of scale. Multi-disciplinary computing economies of scale.

Myths and Facts #4: Myth: Central computing facilities are bureaucratic and inflexible. Fact: Colocating and sharing models reduce overhead. Modularity in building, power, cooling, and support help create sustainability. Move from control to collaboration empowers faculty and reduces central cost. Faculty own the clusters – OIT will just cycle power on request.

Where is this going? 21st century cyberinfrastructure costs will dwarf 20th century ERP investments. Sustainability will be an economic necessity. Cloud/grid computing will affect investment horizons.

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