Saint Louis University Wins High-Performance Computer Cluster Research Grant from Silicon Mechanics

Successful grant campaign inspires second annual competition

Silicon Mechanics, Inc., a leading manufacturer of rackmount servers, storage, and high-performance computing clusters, announces that Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri, is the winner of a complete high-performance computer cluster donated by Silicon Mechanics and its vendor partners. Silicon Mechanics received nearly 200 applications from universities across the US and Canada for this research grant, but SLU's uniquely interdisciplinary proposal stood out from the competition.

SLU plans to use the next-generation hardware for six different research areas-Digital Theology, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Business, and Computer Science. These departments will take advantage of the new cluster for a variety of exciting research projects. For example, the Center for Digital Theology will advance further into the field of paleography, using the cluster to process large sets of digital images of pre-modern manuscripts. The Biology Department will be able to more efficiently analyze the large amounts of data associated with studying climate change in the Andes Mountains, while the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department will run simulations of parachute and cargo drops.

Keith Hacke, interim CIO and vice president of Information Technology Services (ITS) at SLU, explained the mentality behind this approach. "What we realized here in central IT is that this type of hardware is not used by just one division. A single department can't keep that much computing busy all the time. Different departments are using it at different times in the year; there are many varied workload schedules for research. So this gives us the ability to add a lot of computational power across multiple departments."

The new hardware will also be used to help update Saint Louis University's current clusters. "We've had a cluster for two years, using three-year-old software, and there wasn't an effective way to migrate it," explained Mr. Hacke, "So what we plan to do is use the Silicon Mechanics infrastructure as our new cluster, and then move some of our old compute notes over to it this summer and eventually migrate everything to it."

Most importantly, however, the cluster will help Saint Louis University to reach its overarching, long-term goals for research. "One of our university goals is to be a Top-50 research institution," continued Mr. Hacke, "and having these kinds of compute systems is mandatory for a move like that. This is excellent, state-of-the-art equipment, and we're incredibly excited to put it to work."

The success of this first campaign, for both Saint Louis University and Silicon Mechanics, has inspired the start of a second annual research grant. "Silicon Mechanics was delighted to award this significant research tool to Saint Louis University, which put forward an innovative proposal benefiting an incredibly wide range of academic pursuits," said Art Mann, Education, Research & Government Vertical Group Manager at Silicon Mechanics. "Seeing how positively this grant has affected the university, and how essential state-of-the-art computing is for next-generation research, Silicon Mechanics has decided to award another computer cluster research grant next year."