Utah may have lost out recently in the competition for the superconducting supercollider, but there is a possibility the state can have something else labeled "super."
The Utah Economic Development Board has authorized the Utah Division of Business and Economic Development to ask the Legislature for $1 million to help IBM bring a supercomputer to the University of Utah in a joint venture with Brigham Young University and Utah State University.The proposal also includes a $200,000 appropriation in each of the next five years for a total state appropriation of $2 million, said Lynn Blake, director of the Centers of Excellence program.
Blake said IBM wants to enter the supercomputer business. Supercomputers are faster than other computers, can store more programs and make scientific calculations that many businesses need.
IBM has decided to locate its supercomputer in Utah because of the Centers of Excellence program between the three universities and because of computer-oriented companies already established.
According to information provided during the recent board meeting, the entire project will cost $21.9 million (rounded figures), federal appropriations to the University of Utah will provide another $4.3 million, U. external grants will provide $1.15 million, U. research grants will provide $1.35 million and the state's $2 million makes up the rest.
Blake told the board that Evans and Sutherland is also building a supercomputer and board members expressed their concern that the IBM deal not have a negative impact on a Utah-based company like Evans and Sutherland.
Blake said when the Evans and Sutherland supercomputer is completed it will be located at BYU and then go through the software development stage. Once that is completed, the Evans and Sutherland supercomputer will be part of the consortium.
BYU has received $600,000 under the Centers of Excellence program for the first-phase development of the Evans and Sutherland supercomputer and the company is putting up many times that amount of its own money.
Asked why BYU and USU aren't putting up any of their money on the IBM deal, Blake said BYU's contribution will be the Evans and Sutherland project and USU first needs to install a high-speed communication link between Logan and Salt Lake City to become a major partner in the consortium.
Blake said if the Legislature approves the money, the supercomputer could be installed within six weeks.
Several board members voiced concern about the state getting its money back. Therefore, when any contract is signed, the state will insist on getting a proportionate share of profits of the developmental software. IBM apparently will use the supercomputer to sell identical machines.
Blake said the state should get a return on its investment because companies now sending their computer time to Colorado and San Diego will use the local supercomputer and they could expand their operations. That means more jobs for the state.