New Supercomputer to Create 'Extensive National Library' in Pittsburgh

Nov 24, 2014

The National Science Foundation has awarded $9.65 million to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Monday to create a user-friendly supercomputer called “Bridges.”

Unlike other systems that require users to login, punch in commands using specialized computing skills and wait a few days for the results, Bridges allows scientists and researchers to access the database online through a series of portals, which Nick Nystrom, director of strategic applications at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, said leads to a more fluid experience.

“We’re focusing on looking at big data, on data analytics, on new communities like the social sciences, humanities, machine learning and other groups that, so far haven’t used supercomputers for various reasons,” he said.

One of those reasons being a lack of “desktop convenience.”

Nystrom said researchers in those fields are more interested in exploring ideas and experimenting, as opposed to harvesting numerical information, and a more user-friendly experience could bring them into the world of big data.

“With Bridges, we envisage moving much more toward what we call gateways and some people call these portals, but those would be web-based interfaces to let people use very high-powered software on the Bridges supercomputer from their desktop from a web browser without necessarily even having to worry about using a supercomputer,” he said.

Nystrom also hopes Bridges’ ability to store vast amounts of complete textual works will entice researchers to utilize the resource.

“These fields are moving from a previous model where a scholar would devote their career… onto a very narrow set of work or body of literature and now people are looking much more broadly at whole collections of literature across cultures, across time,” he said.

Researchers will begin designing and building Bridges in October 2015. The project is expected to be completed by January 2016. The system is being developed by Hewlett Packard, with help from Intel and NVIDIA.