A Look at Indiana University’s New “Big Red II” Supercomputer

Twenty-five times faster than its predecessor, Indiana University’s new “Big Red II” Cray supercomputer is up and running, and ready to speed engineering innovation and scientific discovery to the tune of one thousand trillion floating-point operations per second.

Leveraging years of experience with Cray machines and embracing the same HPC architecture as other large national lab machines, IU is now more equipped than ever to take on the increasing challenges of data-intensive computing.

Utilizing the world’s fastest university-owned supercomputer, IU will now be able address new science and technology challenges, addressing much larger and vastly more complex problems. Building on the success of the original Big Red 1 system, the Big Red II supercomputer was dedicated and opened for discovery in April of this year.

The University is using Big Red II to arm its smartest computational science minds with the tools they need to lead us into the next wave of technical exploration — an investment that they estimate will pay for itself many times over in terms of economic development in Indiana — accelerating their own access to a broader realm of technical domains.

Big Red II is targeting diverse research in areas such as:

  • Astronomy:  stellar dynamics and the movement of data-intensive large format telescope cameras
  • Chemistry:  predictions of the behavior of viruses and other microbes, vaccine development
  • Climate research: understanding long-term climate changes, weather patterns and disasters
  • Computing: big, fast data and large-scale scientific data sharing
  • Biology: genomics and population, mechanism of evolution, roles of mutations and genetic drift
  • Energy & Matter: large scale molecular dynamics simulations, star material and  dense matter exploration
  • Engineering: aerospace engineering
  • Informatics: designing more real-world simulations on solar energy and artificial photosynthesis
  • Mathematics: massive numerical simulations like turbulence, weather forecasting and blood circulation
  • Medicine: accelerating new medical breakthroughs to improve human health
  • Radiology: managing and analyzing human genome data sets of unprecedented size and scope
  • Natural and Physical Sciences: getting better compute & energy efficiency for physics codes
  • Statistics: mining, simulating and visualizing social media data for economic and societal prediction

Here is a great video of the dedication ceremony, which includes a powerful summary of all the types of scientific discovery that Big Red II will target (this segment starts at the 38-minute mark).

By utilizing the Cray hardware, networking and software technology that is directly and seamlessly compatible with NSF-funded national lab systems such as Blue Waters and Titan, IU is providing yet another Cray petaflop computing resource for our country’s leading engineers, researchers, analysts and scientists.

As the Hoosier high performance computing community likes to explain, if you performed one calculation per second with a hand calculator, it would take you 31.7 million years to do what a petaflop supercomputer like the Cray Big Red II can do in a second!


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