IBM Award to Help Establish Multicore Supercomputing Center at UMBC

Story by Farid - Monday 27th August 2007, 05:05:00 PM

'Orchestra' of Powerful Processing Chips Will Drive Geoscience, Medical Imaging, Aerospace and Financial Services Research

BALTIMORE, MD - 23 Aug 2007: The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and IBM ( NYSE: IBM) today announced a new collaboration to create The Multicore Computing Center (MCC), a unique facility that will focus on supercomputing research related to aerospace/defense, financial services, medical imaging and weather/climate change prediction. IBM awarded UMBC a significant gift to support the development of this new center, which researchers describe as an "orchestra" of one of the world's most powerful supercomputing chips.

The MCC will bring to UMBC a high-performance computational test laboratory based on the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell/B.E.), jointly developed by IBM, Sony Corp., Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) and Toshiba Corp. This ground breaking processor is used in products such as SCE's PlayStation3 and Toshiba's Cell/B.E. Reference Set, a development tool for Cell/B.E. applications, as well as the IBM BladeCenter QS20.

"The Multicore Computing Center highlights UMBC's role as a national leader in information technology research and education, and will contribute to Maryland's economic growth and national security," said Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC.

Today's announcement is the latest development in a strong, long-time partnership between IBM and UMBC. IBM employs over 100 UMBC alumni, and UMBC faculty have received numerous IBM research awards and fellowships over the past decade.

"The opening of the UMBC Multicore Computer Center is yet another example of how IBM innovations are being used to help further the advancement of research and science that benefits business and our communities," said Rod Adkins, senior vice president of development & manufacturing, IBM Systems & Technology Group. "We are convinced of the endless possibilities that can, and will, emerge from this type of collaborative relationship, and are proud to play a role in the launch of the new information technology research center."

Cells have a wide range of capability -- able to serve as engines for image and video-intensive computing tasks like virtual reality, simulations and imaging for aerospace, medicine and defense; high-definition TV and high-speed video for wireless devices; and highly complex physics based computer models to better predict weather, climate change and biochemistry.

One of the challenges for researchers at the MCC will be making clusters consisting of hundreds of the powerful information engines run effectively together.

"Cell processors are groups of eight very fast, independent but simple PCs with their own tiny memory all on a single chip each with its own leader," said Milt Halem, director of the MCC and professor of computer science at UMBC. "The challenge is choreographing all the chips to work efficiently in parallel. It's like a distributed orchestra with 224 musicians and 28 conductors connected with head phones trying to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 together."

UMBC is a member of IBM's Academic Initiative, a program sponsored by IBM to upgrade IT skills for a more competitive workforce. Through the Academic Initiative, IBM works with more than 2,200 institutions, 11,000 faculty members and 650,000 students worldwide to build integrated business, science and technology skills to be applied in today's global economy.

"We are so pleased to become an early adopter of this revolutionary shift in semi-conductor chip design," said Halem, who retired in 2002 from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where he served as Assistant Director for Information Sciences and Chief Information Officer. "UMBC is committed to growing its computational science expertise and hopes this collaboration with IBM will allow the university to become a national leader in the applications of future multicore computers as they grow more massive."

The Multicore Computing Center of Excellence is expected to be installed and operational by fall 2007.

About the College of Engineering and Information Technology at UMBC:
UMBC's College of Engineering and Information Technology (COE&IT) is focused on becoming a national leader in engineering and IT education, research, entrepreneurship and diversity. According to National Science Foundation data, UMBC consistently ranks among America's top research universities in undergraduate IT degree production. The College has built a national reputation for increasing IT gender diversity thanks in part to the Center for Women and Information Technology (CWIT), called "the best resource for women on the Web" by ABC News. In 2005, UMBC was honored by the Accredited Board for Engineering and Technology for producing more minority faculty than any other U.S. institution. The College is home to 2200 undergraduates in eight bachelor's degree programs and nearly 800 graduate students enrolled in nine MS and eight PhD programs. The College's talented, committed and accessible faculty secure over $13 million in annual research expenditures to advance the frontiers of discovery and innovation and make UMBC a powerful force in engineering and information technology. For more information please visit

About IBM:
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