Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Supercomputing in the Neighborhood. (Tech Talk)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Supercomputing in the Neighborhood. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

Supercomputers are generally thought to exist exclusively for advanced scientific, medical and engineering research and uses. However, in Winston-Salem, N.C., a coalition of universities, businesses and local government agencies is looking to establish a supercomputer center not only benefiting researchers but also providing a boost to education and economic development in the city located in North Carolina's Piedmont Triad region.

Such a supercomputing center would grant local businesses, public schools, universities and governments access to advanced computing power, according to its proponents.

"Providing opportunities for educators, researchers, businesses and government agencies to learn more about emerging technologies may provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace for these businesses and for students to experience these technologies," says Dr. Joyce Williams-Green, associate provost for information resources at historically Black Winston-Salem State University.

Winston-Salem State is one of the key players in a coalition that also includes Wake Forest University. Last month, WSSU officials, in conjunction with a local pharmaceutical firm, convened a supercomputing planning conference that drew more than 100 participants to the university's campus. Though WSSU researchers would greatly benefit from the access to a local supercomputer, WSSU officials are positioning the school to facilitate supercomputer access and training programs primarily for the academic teaching community in the Winston-Salem area.

Experts say they are impressed by the level of cooperation they have seen among the city's leading institutions, as well as by the computing and networking infrastructure already in place. The goal now is to raise $20,000 to $30,000 to pay.for development of a white paper and a business plan for the multimillion-dollar supercomputer center, according to officials.

"I'm impressed that this community is taking on this project," says Dr. Roscoe Giles, a Boston University professor and prominent supercomputing advocate. "This effort is quite unique."

A supercomputer center in or around Winston-Salem would complement the state's only supercomputer, which is based in Research Triangle Park near Raleigh and Durham, N.C. Established in 1989, the North Carolina Supercomputing Center links up to educational institutions and businesses around the state to perform high-level research. The supercomputer center is also at the heart of the state's efforts to develop cluster computing capacity among the state's research institutions. …

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