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New York Offers Researchers Free Access to IBM's Blue Gene

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New York launched an initiative to provide public and private researchers in the state with time on a supercomputer. The state has allotted 150 million CPU hours for this use, and the offer lasts for the next three years.

The computer, an IBM Blue Gene, operates at faster than 80 teraflops and can perform 100 trillion calculations per second. The Blue Gene is housed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations.

The state came by this compute time when it, along with Rensselaer and IBM, invested $100 million to create the CCNI in 2007. As part of that agreement, the state receives 20 percent usage of the computer, as do both Rensselaer and IBM. Most of the state's slice will go toward economic development, but the rest is for research. For its part, CCNI is focused on cutting down the amount of time and money needed to design, develop, and manufacture nanoscale devices.

Researchers can apply for time on Blue Gene by contacting the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology, and Innovation's director of high-performance research, Michael Ridley. "They would fill out an application explaining what type of business they are and what they are looking to use the supercomputer for, and he then coordinates with RPI to send the application and figure out how they can use it," says Jannette Rondó, director of public information at the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Currently, the state has received about 20 applications from qualified users. "'Qualified users' doesn't necessarily just mean businesses. It's universities as well as other entities," adds Rondó. "We do have some specific bio companies."

One of those companies is Gene Network Sciences, an Ithaca, NY-based biotech company. Gene Network Sciences is already taking advantage of computer time at Rensselaer. Scientists there are combining computing and genomics to study diseases for drug discovery and diagnostic development.

The compute time is free, for now. "They will not be charged a fee initially. As it moves along and, let's say, businesses actually start making some money, there's a process they will have to work out with RPI and there will be processing fees," Rondó says.

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