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April 22, 2022

Grant awarded for accessible supercomputer: MSU Data Machine

Although the phrase “high-performance computing” traditionally conjures images of a computer scientist more so than a social scientist, the reality is that many diverse areas of research benefit from access to the advanced computational capacity offered by a high-performance computing center. The National Science Foundation has awarded a $399,865 Campus Cyberinfrastructure grant to MSU that will enable researchers from diverse academic backgrounds to utilize the campus HPCC facilitated by the Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research.

Technological advancements and increased availability of data have led to an explosion of data for researchers to employ in machine learning and artificial intelligence, particularly in fields of study where computing has not been widely used. With the Campus Cyberinfrastructure grant, ICER will create the MSU Data Machine — an accessible supercomputer optimized for such data-intensive research and ML and AI applications.

Brian O’Shea, principal investigator for the Campus Cyberinfrastructure grant and director of ICER, noted that the technical optimization of the MSU Data Machine is paired with a comprehensive outreach and training program to ensure access to researchers from fields that do not typically use high-performance computing in their workflow.

“The machine will include large amounts of memory to facilitate user-friendly data analysis, low latency solid-state storage that is optimized for working with small files and complex access patterns, and graphics processing units that are well-suited for ML and AI applications,” O’Shea stated. “We will ensure that this resource is maximally accessible to researchers and instructors through tools like Open OnDemand, which provides a graphical interface that is much easier to use than the standard command-line interface, modern cloud-informed system and user tools, and usage policies that promote interactive data analysis over a batch queue-based system.”

Melissa Woo, executive vice president for administration and chief information officer, said the accessibility built into the MSU Data Machine is essential to the University’s commitment to an inclusive and equitable campus culture.

To read more about the MSU Data Machine, visit

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