What would you do with 48 cores?

AMD is hosting a contest, and I thought I’d give it a shot.

Using Computer Modeling to Promote Scientific Innovation

Given 48 cores of AMD computing power, I would set up an open-access super computer at my university, San Jose State University.  I would set it up in way that Aerospace Engineers could run Computational Fluid Dynamics on the machine, Mechanical Engineers could run heat transfer simulations, Biologists could run protein folding simulations, etc. The CPU-intensive research applications are endless. But I wouldn’t stop there.

The machine would be intended for research in subjects of Green Engineering or any research done for the good of society and not for profit.  A computer with 48 cores could be used to minimize drag on an automobile or a airplane to make them more fuel efficient.  Simulations could be run to optimize wind turbine blade dimensions to maximize power output.  Jet turbine engines could be acoustically modelled to reduce noise produced, thereby reducing noise pollution.  Protein folding simulations could be run to find cures for diseases such as cancer or Alzheimers.  Meteorological simulations could be run to analyze global climate change.

Universities are a large source of technological innovation, inspiring industries with their research. With an open access small-scale supercomputer, students would be able to take their research to higher levels of efficiency.  But in order to optimize the use and allocation of this machine, we could open up access to other universities when demand is low.  Since 48 cores would be more than enough for most simulations, we could use virtualization software such as Xen to allow multiple systems to be run at once, optimizing CPU cycle utilization.  Since San Jose State University is connected to high speed internet, the sharing of information would be very speedy.  If the computer ever sat idle, distributed computing applications such as Folding@Home and SETI@Home could be used to help contribute to research projects around the globe.

In order to maximize utilization of the computer, a dedicated website would be created for advising students on guidelines on how to sign up for research time, how long of a wait there is for compute time, and what projects the machine is currently working on.  In the lobby of our Engineering building is a large screen TV that displays information and announcements, a slide indicated current research on the machine could be used to help promote awareness of this computer.

The idea behind an open-access super computer is simple.  If someone has an idea, but doesn’t have the computing capability to analyze it, then they shouldn’t be turned down from pursuing their innovation. Just because a student is a freshman or a sophomore doesn’t mean they can’t come up with an idea that will reduce carbon emissions or increase vehicle safety.  With student driven innovation, society can benefit from the investment of their tax dollars in our future.