Texas A&M University Partnering with IBM in Supercomputer Deal

A test found that a computation problem that took A&M's existing computers weeks to solve was completed by the IBM computer in 17 minutes.


The Texas A&M University System has partnered with computing giant IBM for use of supercomputers that will significantly boost research processing power across the state.

Through the partnership, the system will gain access to IBM's Blue Gene/Q technology housed in New York. The 11 universities and nine state agencies in the system will have access to the technology.

System officials said a preliminary test found that a computation problem that took A&M's existing computers weeks to solve was completed by the IBM computer in 17 minutes "with much greater analytical depth."

Texas A&M purchased its first supercomputer in 1989 and traditionally operates two on the A&M campus. The oldest of the two is replaced about every three years.

Supercomputing at A&M is primarily used by engineering, agriculture and the sciences. The machines will tackle problems too complex, or that take too long, for regular computers.

System Chancellor John Sharp said the push for better computers began in 2004 after an IT audit found the system was "woefully short of computing power." The partnership will boost A&M's international standing and will make it more competitive with the University of Texas, which boasts some of the most powerful supercomputers in the state.

"I think if you analyze our computing power now compared to the rest of the world we would be somewhere in the 500 to 550 range," Sharp said. "This will take us to about 78 in the world in computing power and then we will build on that."

The collaboration will indefinitely join A&M and IBM for research collaboration. Texas A&M purchased a supercomputing cluster from IBM, but officials said they did not know how much the computers cost. Sharp said about 30 IBM researchers from across the country will relocate to College Station to work on joint projects.

IBM's research branch is partnering with A&M to tackle subjects such as sustainable availability of food, disease spread tracking, modeling and prediction, energy resource management and new materials development.

"It became very clear early on in our meetings with IBM that we complement them in a number of areas, including engineering, geosciences and agriculture," said Jon Mogford, A&M's vice chancellor for research. "We're also excited -- IBM would like A&M to be part of the development of their next high-performance computing systems and there's also the opportunity, as we expand on the research and the partnerships, to bring researchers to College Station."

Mogford said the computing power will tackle jobs at A&M such as predicting genomic outcomes, advanced weather and climate modeling and testing materials used for energy, aerospace and defense. He said the better machinery will make research easier for students and faculty and will also help in recruiting top talent to A&M.

Gov. Rick Perry lauded the partnership in a prepared statement.

"Combining the incredible intellectual and technological resources of Texas A&M University and IBM will further position Texas as a leader in identifying and solving some of the most complex challenges we face," Perry said. "The work that will be done here will change lives and potentially save lives not just in our state, but our nation and around the world."

©2014 The Eagle (Bryan, Texas)