NCSA building

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications building located on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana.

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URBANA — The University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications received a $10 million federal grant to deploy a next-generation computing program called Delta.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Delta will be about as powerful as the Blue Waters supercomputer, at a fraction of the cost and size, NCSA Director Bill Gropp said.

“If you’ve seen Blue Waters and its aisle after aisle of cabinets, we’re probably looking at just one aisle of cabinets,” he said. “There’s some things that Blue Waters will be a lot better at, and there’s some things that this machine will be better at.”

In comparison, NCSA received a $208 million grant in 2007 from the NSF to deploy Blue Waters.

“This is the next in a line of supercomputers that NCSA has operated for the nation’s science enterprise,” Gropp said. “We’re really excited about it. It has a lot of forward-looking features that will help the computational science community move into the future.”

NCSA will need to have Delta up and running by the last quarter of next year, and it should be in operation for at least five years.

“We’re using the next generation of processors and GPUs (graphics-processing units), and so we’ll be installing those as soon as they’re available,” Gropp said. “We want to help the community adopt these new technologies and enter a new era of computing” that relies more on GPUs.

Gropp said he also hopes Delta is easier to use for researchers.

“As opposed to more old-fashioned ways of writing codes and giving it to a system to run, having a gateway makes it easier for more people to take advantage of it,” Gropp said. “Another thing that we’re doing in partnering with groups on campus is looking at the accessibility of the system, so making it easier for people to make use of the systems through different software interfaces, web interfaces, gateways and so forth.”

While Gropp said the grant will help “provide a tremendous amount of computational ability and capacity,” including to UI researchers, he said there’s still more demand for advanced computing.

“The revolution in computing and in data science has increased the demand, and so I think even more to be done,” Gropp said.