Traditionally cloistered in academic institutions and research laboratories, high-performance computing (HPC) is making inroads into corporate data centers. Why? Because running real-time business analytics and harvesting hidden nuggets of information from an avalanche of unstructured, big data demand it.
The catch for enterprises is that they lack expertise in high-performance computing at the same time that their end businesses are demanding IT services that require it. So it was natural for Rutgers University and Xerox to form an active collaboration around high performance computing.
"Many people may not realize this, but Xerox already has a very active business providing solutions for enterprise information needs," says Nathan Gnanasambandam, a senior research analyst at Xerox. "There are many more people like me. We primarily research and develop analytics and algorithms that work with high-performance computing, and we serve outside enterprise clients."
That includes financial companies, which call on Xerox for risk assessment, and retailers, which seek data gathering and analysis about consumers. "In many cases, we are analyzing thousands of transactions a day that come in a variety of forms, from online transactions to phone calls to email to paper," says Gnanasambandam. "The challenge for the enterprises we provide HPC services to is that their data centers are organized around traditional transaction processing, and they need formal training in areas like quantitative modeling in order to provide HPC. An organization like ours has the requisite expertise, and can work with these companies in pilot and larger projects on the problems that they need to solve that also require HPC."
Xerox had its own HPC clustered servers in its data center because its algorithms are proprietary and the company wants to own its own infrastructure--but it's also working with universities like Rutgers to see if some of the tasks can be performed on a larger scale by provisioning additional resources when demand requires it.
Partly because of partnerships with companies like Xerox, Rutgers launched its Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute (RDI2) in March. Out of 62 scientific computation centers in the United States, only eight have industrial partnerships programs--and Rutgers is one. The Rutgers HPC program is designed to not only develop students into future engineers, but also to use its IBM Blue Gene Supercomputer as a collaborative resource with the private sector.
The development of the Discovery Informatics Institute was aided through a partnership with IBM, which provided equipment and research services, with the understanding that Rutgers will purchase additional hardware and software, along with entering into a three-year maintenance agreement for the equipment. The project was meant to be a first step in an economic development opportunity for Rutgers, IBM and the state of New Jersey, which has been engaged in discussions with Rutgers to provide funding for further expansion and supercomputing capacity. For New Jersey companies, the supercomputer will help them bring products and services to market years sooner and less expensively than otherwise possible--and Xerox has been an immediate beneficiary.
Next: How Xerox and Rutgers Work Together on High-Performance Computing