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NCSA Director Bill Gropp on the ‘Vision for Illinois Computes’

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of virtual visits with NCSA thought leaders on current topics impacting the field of high-performance computing.

NCSA’s Vision for Illinois Computes
By Bill Gropp, NCSA Director

Since its opening in 1986, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications has played an important role in advanced computing research that’s delivered huge benefits to society. We developed a secure, HIPAA-compliant system called Nightingale to aid our university in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and protect our campus community. We helped scientists accurately predict a volcanic eruption – to the day – in Ecuador. NCSA continues to bolster influential research that has direct societal impact across the globe.

Aligning with this foundational principle, NCSA recently launched Illinois Computes, a program offering computing and data storage resources, technical expertise and support services to researchers from all domains across the three universities of the University of Illinois System. Thanks to a combined $50 million funding agreement from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and U of I System, NCSA will have the capacity to boost research efforts in more than just the STEM sphere.

We don’t know where the next impactful piece of research will come from, but we can do our best to make sure those working on it have access to any computing resources they may need to take their research to the next level.

Bill Gropp, NCSA Director
Many people working on developer projects at workstations with an orange and blue gradient background

And Illinois Computes offers more than the obvious. Of course, we’re providing NCSA’s world-renowned computing and data systems, but the infrastructure for campus researchers doesn’t stop there. Roughly half of the UIUC commitment is allocated to support researchers in their work while the majority of the system funding is currently marked for hardware. We aren’t just spending money on bigger, faster machines – we’re investing in our people and their research. We aim to provide end-to-end support services to those who need a little help along the way. We hope this will remove barriers to researchers unfamiliar with advanced research computing and provide a more welcoming environment to those members of our community who may be new to supercomputing.

Much like the ever-shifting world we live in today, Illinois Computes will change and adapt to the needs of researchers over time. This nimble flexibility is paramount to our effort and will benefit our researchers immensely. We’re not trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We’re creating strategies that fit all of our campus research wants and wishes. Collaboration is key to dynamic innovation and Illinois Computes will strengthen that foundation while helping NCSA and the U of I System remain a global destination for pioneering research and scholarship.

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