August 25, 2011 — A partnership of 17 institutions, including the University of Virginia, will benefit from a new $121 million National Science Foundation-funded computer resources project called the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment. XSEDE promises to be the most advanced, powerful and robust collection of integrated advanced digital resources and services in the world.
Scientists and engineers use supercomputers and massive collections of data to propel discovery and technological advances. Such resources and tools are crucial to research in many fields, including engineering, materials science, medicine, epidemiology, genomics, astronomy, physics and biology.
Everything from identifying the functions of genes to determining the effects of human activity on climate requires the use of massive computing resources and the ability to make use of that power. Utilizing the XSEDE infrastructure, U.Va. researchers will have access to some of the most important research sites and databases in the world, including national centers in California, Illinois and Texas. In addition, the XSEDE infrastructure allows U.Va. researchers a platform for secure collaboration with both local and remote researchers.
"Enabling scientific discovery through enhanced researcher productivity is our goal, and XSEDE's ultimate reason for being," said Barry Schneider, a program director in NSF's Office of Cyberinfrastructure. "For this sort of cyberscience to be truly effective and provide unique insights, it requires a cyberinfrastructure of local computing hardware at sites around the country, advanced supercomputers at larger centers, generally available software packages and fast networks. Ideally, they should all work together so the researcher can move from local to national resources transparently and easily."
NSF will fund the project for five years, with a possible five-year extension.
XSEDE will expand upon and replace TeraGrid, a national computer-networking project used by more than 10,000 scientists since its inception a decade ago. U.Va.'s participation in the XSEDE project is led by its chief architect, Andrew Grimshaw, professor of computer science and director of the U.Va. Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering.
XSEDE will improve and change science by "providing U.Va. researchers with access to both the XSEDE infrastructure and the current Cross Campus Grid in a unified environment to allow them to access the most diverse set of resources possible, while providing a platform for secure collaboration with both local and remote researchers," said Michael Saravo, a software engineer in the Engineering School and one of the lead developers in the XSEDE project.
Initially, XSEDE will support 16 supercomputer sites across the country. It also includes other specialized digital resources and services – common authentication and security mechanisms, global access to files, remote job submission and monitoring, and file transfer services. Resources will be expanded throughout the lifetime of the project.
The U.Va. Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering, which spearheaded the University's involvement with XSEDE, helps scientists and scholars across Grounds to better use computing resources to perform complex data analysis, to build and run computer models and to make use of computer clusters at U.Va. and at computing centers nationwide.
Working closely with the XSEDE development team, U.Va. has a unique opportunity to better compete nationally and internationally for increasingly scarce federal funding and to shape the future of research, Schneider said.
In addition to U.Va., the XSEDE partnership includes: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Carnegie Mellon University/University of Pittsburgh; University of Texas at Austin; University of Tennessee; Shodor Education Foundation; Southeastern Universities Research Association; University of Chicago; University of California, San Diego; Indiana University; Purdue University; Cornell University; Ohio State University; University of California, Berkeley; Rice University; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The partnership is led by the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications.