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Illinois Computes Providing Free Access To Illinois Campus Cluster

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The Illinois Campus Cluster (ICC) has provided many campus researchers with needed computing and data storage resources since it began in 2011. However, due to costs to access the cluster, those resources weren’t always immediately available to everyone.

Through the new National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Illinois Computes initiative, users can today access a share of the available compute nodes for free.

Before Illinois Computes, any individual, research team or campus unit could invest in compute nodes or storage disks, or pay a fee for on-demand use of compute cycles or storage space. Costs were kept low as staffing and infrastructure were partially subsidized by the university through existing units, but funding was still a barrier for many researchers.

Now some researchers will no longer have to foot the bill to utilize a portion of the ICC thanks to the five-year, $50 million funding commitment from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois System. Illinois Computes invested in 16 dedicated nodes, the fourth largest active investment in the ICC program, and will provide up to 100,000 core hours to campus researchers.

University of Illinois researchers will now be able to access part of the Illinois Campus Cluster for free. Illinois Computes and NCSA are committed to democratizing research computing and this is an impactful step forward to that objective.

Bill Gropp, NCSA Director

Announced in April, Illinois Computes offers computing and data storage resources, technical expertise and support services to researchers from all domains across the University of Illinois who also may have a broad range of needs, whether they be simple or more complex. Through the program, NCSA will learn what additional assets are needed to fulfill the system’s computing demands while making access to computing systems, interdisciplinary and technical knowledge, and support infrastructure easy to obtain.

Providing compute nodes on the ICC is one part of that overall strategy. High-performance computing (HPC) has become essential to research in many disciplines across the University of Illinois campus, from astronomy to biology to chemistry, all the way through the alphabet to zoology. A combination of programming, software, libraries and storage helps meet many of the needs of campus researchers.

The primary purpose behind the creation of the ICC was to centralize and professionally manage HPC and relevant scientific research hardware for campus. The venture aimed to eliminate the need for individual departments and researchers to maintain their own “closet clusters” of servers.

In addition, the ICC offers various advantages, including a secondary job queue system. This system allows investors in the cluster to access spare computing cycles from other nodes when they weren’t in use. Although the primary investor receives priority, this arrangement benefits other researchers who require additional resources for scaling out their applications temporarily.

Illinois Computes is further strengthening the ICC contribution to campus in hopes of maximizing the potential of researchers and their work across all domains.

“By removing barriers and offering users a robust support network, this new approach to research computing and data will bring resources to those unfamiliar with high-performance computing and cyberinfrastructure,” Gropp said. “The Illinois Campus Cluster has long been a reliable option for Illinois researchers, which is why supporting it through Illinois Computes – by providing compute nodes at no cost to the researcher – was an easy decision.”

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