High performance computer systems have become an indispensable tool for research and innovation in the sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. As reliance on research computing expands, universities face the practical problem of how to house and support a growing stock of high performance computing and data storage systems.
In 2010, after considering numerous alternatives, five of the largest research universities in Massachusetts formed a consortium to develop a common solution to this problem. The universities were joined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Cisco, and EMC, who recognized the strategic importance of computationally-intensive research to the regional economy and to workforce development.
Once the consortium was formed, project teams composed of experts in research computing, facility operations, construction, business, and law from all five MGHPCC universities worked with selected contractors on two parallel tracks: design and construction of a state of the art data center, and development of a business and technical operating model for the facility. This activity culminated in the opening of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in November 2012.
Since its inception, the MGHPCC consortium has pursued opportunities for collaborative computationally intensive research and infrastructure programs involving faculty researchers from all five institutions. These efforts, coordinated by the MGHPCC Research, Education, and Outreach working group, have yielded several major initiatives, including a $1M seed grant program for promising multi-university research projects; acquisition and operation of large shared computing resources for collaborative research, supported by the NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; and the Mass Open Cloud – a project developing a novel, transformative marketplace for public cloud offerings. MORE.
The MGHPCC has also served as a catalyst for economic development in the city of Holyoke. Initially, the MGHPCC construction project generated hundreds of jobs, made investments in public infrastructure, and focused positive attention in the national business community on the city. Today, the MHGPCC and its founding universities are working with the Holyoke Innovation District Task Force, city government, local schools, community colleges, and other organizations, contributing to a broad-based initiative to revitalize downtown Holyoke. Events and partnerships over the past few years have included the startup of Cisco Networking Academy programs at Holyoke Community College and Dean Technical High School, a “Science in the Cloud” pilot program in four middle schools, a smart grid technology project with the city’s Holyoke Gas and Electric Department, and numerous seminars, public meetings, and STEM activities in the public areas of the MGHPCC facility.