UAB supercomputer expanding storage capability

UAB IT is adding 3 petabytes of storage to its Cheaha high-performance computing cluster over the holiday break, which will provide more storage capacity for the fastest supercomputer in the state.

Ralph Zottola, Ph.D., assistant vice president for research computing at UAB, announced the addition at the annual Research Computing Day held Nov. 7.

Zottola, who joined UAB last summer, has been meeting with researchers across campus to get an idea of their computing needs.

“As we grow research computing, it will take all of us together at UAB,” Zottola said. “It’s essential for us to understand what the research community is doing and what their needs are.”

Researchers at UAB use the supercomputer for studies such as comparing brain scans for Parkinson’s disease research. Cheaha’s power, which has increased to 450 teraflops — a 45-fold increase — over the past three years with the addition of new processing units. The supercomputer can process brain images in hours, rather than the months or years it would take on normal machines. Cheaha can give researchers a competitive advantage when they seek grants and collaborate with other institutions.

The research computing team itself has tripled over the past year, from three full-time staff to 10. Scientists and developers on the team work closely with researchers to help determine their needs and analyze their data.

That team, Zottola said, is most important to the success of research computing at UAB.

“The computer’s performance is just a number,” he said. “It’s the people who make it run.”