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NCSA Director Bill Gropp on What’s Next 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.

What’s Next for Illinois Computes
By Bill Gropp, NCSA Director

A lot of work has been done behind the scenes to get Illinois Computes to where it is today. Since publicly announcing the program last April, we’ve seen tremendous growth in usage, functionality and awareness of this new and exciting opportunity for researchers.

In case you need a reminder, Illinois Computes provides computing and data storage resources, technical expertise and support services to researchers from all domains at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – and eventually the wider University of Illinois System, Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) – for free. This is all made possible by the generous $50 million commitment from our UIUC and U of I System partners as well as the dedicated effort of everyone involved in lifting the program up off the ground.

While celebrating the 1-year anniversary of our announcement, I couldn’t help but marvel at the breadth of impact Illinois Computes has had across the University of Illinois in what has felt like a very short period of time. More than 250 new research projects have utilized different computing or data systems under the NCSA portfolio, over 300 separate support requests have been answered and researchers from 10 of the distinct UIUC colleges have leveraged Illinois Computes to advance their work.

We’ve spoken with countless members of the campus research community and received a mountain of good questions and feedback. But it is their excitement that computing support – especially consulting help – being available to all is what confirms the Illinois Computes and NCSA mission to democratize access to high-performance computing and data resources so that all researchers will have the tools they need to continue to innovate and advance their work in new and interesting ways.

Bill Gropp, NCSA Director

One of my favorite initiatives to come from the program so far has been our Illinois Computes Research Notebooks project which provides a highly productive and easy-to-use environment for researchers across campus through the use of Jupyter Notebooks. The demand for this resource has been really high and the feedback from users is extremely positive. So much so that we want to expand its availability and continue to strengthen its capabilities and integration with our other computing systems.

So, what’s next for Illinois Computes?

A big step we’re excited to make soon is bringing additional computing, capacity and support resources for our artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers. In addition to DeltaAI, we’ll launch a new AI-focused system in the near future dedicated to Illinois Computes. We know the impact AI is already having on research across domains, including healthcare, art, literature and transportation. Demand for AI support in research computing is growing nearly exponentially and this will be another way NCSA makes sure those needs are met for the community.

Of course, we’re always keeping our ears open to what the predominant research needs are on our campus. The flexibility of Illinois Computes in acquiring new top-of-the-line hardware or additional support resources is something we’re planning on using to our full advantage in the coming years.

And it won’t be only researchers from the Urbana-Champaign campus that benefit.

Illinois Computes isn’t just intended for our home campus. Researchers in Chicago and Springfield, along with our research and development partners at DPI and IIN, can soon expect access to computing resources and plans for an expansion to meet their specific needs. We’ve seen great success with Illinois Computes in Urbana and we’re excited to take this show on the road, so to speak.

I’m confident we’ll see continued growth and appreciation for Illinois Computes as the word spreads from researcher to researcher. Our efforts to reach new users and new areas of research will always be a priority for the program and I hope to see more successes in those areas in the coming years. I can’t wait to see the measurable impact in scholarship Illinois Computes can foster.


Illinois Computes offers computing and data storage resources, technical expertise and support services to researchers from all domains across the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus for free. Through the campus-funded program, NCSA will learn what additional assets are needed to fulfill the computing demands of the university and adjust the cyberinfrastructure strategy while continuing to make access to systems, interdisciplinary and technical knowledge, and support infrastructure easy to obtain. Illinois Computes removes barriers for all Illinois researchers – especially those typically underserved – to access NCSA’s growing assemblage of research computing tools and world-class staff, furthering their innovative and novel work while ensuring NCSA is a leader in the global research community.

Check out the Illinois Computes website for more information or to get involved.

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