Blue Waters' official launch set

Blue Waters' official launch set

A ceremony marking the official launch of the Blue Waters supercomputer will take place Thursday on campus.

One of the fastest supercomputers in the world, Blue Waters has gone through several milestones so far. It was installed last fall south of campus in the National Petascale Computing Facility and underwent testing to make sure it was operational and able to run certain applications. In recent months, researchers conducted "beta" testing of projects.

Thursday's event will recognize the supercomputer's transition to doing science "24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year as a nonstop resource for science and engineering research," said Trish Barker, spokeswoman for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to deliver remarks and U.S. Congressman Dan Lipinski and former Congressman Tim Johnson will be on hand, according to Barker. UI President Robert Easter and Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise will speak as well as several others, including Pete Ungaro, the president of computer company Cray Inc., and Cora Marrett, acting director of the National Science Foundation. Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois.

A private tour of the petascale facility in Champaign will precede the ceremony at 2:30 p.m., which will take place at the NCSA building, 1205 W. Clark St., U. A private reception at NCSA will follow. You can watch the 2:30 p.m. ceremony online at

The National Science Foundation provided the initial $208 million grant and a $151 million grant for five years of operations. The state spent $60 million for the facility that houses Blue Waters and other computing equipment. And the university is expected to spend $15 million on an equipment match agreement with NSF, plus approximately $13.6 million in debt service on the facility.

Blue Waters has a sustained speed of over 1 petaflop and is capable of performing more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second. It is built with more than 235 Cray XE6 cabinets and more than 30 cabinets of the Cray XK6 supercomputer with NVIDIA Tesla GPU computing capability.

Barker said some of the early research projects include a study of viruses, such as HIV, on a molecular level, research that could potentially yield insights into the treatment and intervention of the disease. Another team, for example, studies severe weather such as the formation of tornadoes and hurricanes, research that could help better forecast the events and plan for evacuations.

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