The University of Utah hopes to have a powerful, $22 million supercomputer operating on campus by June.
James J. Brophy, U. vice president of research, said the U. has signed a letter of intent for a five-year contract with IBM Corp. for the company's state-of-the-art supercomputer - an IBM 3090/600s. A supercomputer completes complex computations at a very high speed and has an extremely large memory.The supercomputer will be operated by a consortium of the state's three research universities - the U., Utah State University and Brigham Young University.
IBM plans to set up a showcase facility at the U. and is making the costly equipment available to the U. for $8.8 million, Brophy said.
Of the U.'s cost, $1.3 million will come from the Utah Department of Business and Economic Development. The department's board agreed Tuesday to help finance the supercomputer, saying it would be a useful tool for the state's business and scientific community.
Brophy said the the rest of the money will come from selling computer time to the state's aerospace industry, particularly Hercules and Morton-Thiokol, which currently spend millions annually buying supercomputer time out of state, to other Utah high-tech firms and to Hill Air Force Base.
Until now, the U. has been the largest out-of-state purchaser of supercomputer time from the University of California at San Diego. When the proposal was first announced to the U. Institutional Council in December, U. officials reported that 120 U. researchers and graduate students use the California equipment.
Brophy said because increasing demands on the San Diego supercomputer would eventually push out the U., the university began investigating the purchase of a supercomputer.
He said with a supercomputer center in state, Utah researchers will be able to buy computer time at a lower cost.
The supercomputer will benefit departments besides science and engineering, Brophy said. Because the supercomputer's incredible memory, there are plans to eventually use it for the U.'s library holdings and card catalog.
Brophy said IBM, as part of the arrangement, will staff the supercomputer with 12 of its own engineers, who will instruct university personnel on the equipment's use.
The only restriction from IBM is that two-thirds of the supercomputer's time be used for education and research.
Because technology changes so rapidly, the supercomputer will become outdated within three to five years.