If you’re not a student or faculty member in a traditional scientific field, you probably haven’t heard of CHPC – the University’s Center for High Performance Computing—and if you have, perhaps you think its services aren’t for you. But that’s where you might be wrong.
“At CHPC, our goal is to support research computing needs anywhere on this campus,” said Anita Orendt, CHPC’s assistant director for Research Consulting and Faculty Engagement.
“We make it easy for researchers to use the tools, so that they can focus on their science,” said Joe Breen, head of CHPC Network Architecture.
These needs include more than traditional high-performance computing (HPC), such as support for big data, big data movement, data analytics, security, virtual machines, Windows science application servers, protected environments for data mining and analysis of protected health information, and advanced networking.
The resources at CHPC can also enable research in nontraditional fields, such as business, geography and fine arts. Regardless of your field, CHPC resources are available to faculty as well as non-faculty researchers: graduate, undergraduate and, occasionally, high school students. Access is also available to collaborators from other institutions.
“They can only look at systems of a certain size or at a certain resolution because of the limitations of the hardware,” Orendt said. “CHPC has the infrastructure in place today to handle these types of projects.”
Rather than start from scratch and build an entire high-performance computing infrastructure or invest in expensive research computing tools, you can simply create an account with CHPC and start using the resources that are already there.
“People have been accumulating data for years,” explained Breen. “But how do you mine it? How do you dig out what’s really unique for a specific discipline?”
“We try to make the transition from desktop to high-performance computing as easy as possible,” added Orendt.
John Hurdle, a biomedical informatics professor at the U, was able to utilize CHPC’s resources for a project conducted by graduate student Phil Brewster, in which tobacco purchases were correlated with the quality of food purchases of household consumers. Hurdle and his team were able to develop QualMART, a tool for helping grocery stores promote healthy eating habits for their customers, thanks to CHPC providing the tools and resources he needed to conduct the research.
CHPC’s wide range of services is meant to help researchers of all types and in all fields:
- HPC clusters (many computers connected together via the network)
- Storage services, including backups and archives
- Data transfer services
- Virtual machines
- Advanced network performance services (in support of research)
- Protected environment
- Education and training on use of resources
The protected environment is especially valuable for medical researchers.
“It’s becoming more and more important that we have an environment where Protected Health Information and other restricted data can be securely stored and used for analysis,” said Orendt.
At the end of the day, the staff members at CHPC are most interested in helping researchers get their work done in the most efficient way.
“Reaching out and pulling people together, regardless of the disciplines, creates innovation,” said Breen. “And when you get multi-disciplinary groups functioning together, they spark. They come up with different ideas. And that’s one of the things that we’re very keen on — sparking the innovation to create new things.”