Professor Bill Gropp, of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, talks about how high-performance computing seeks to assist scientists and engineers who are addressing some of the most challenging questions facing society, such as understanding the formation of tornadoes and how we design structures to resist them or understanding a living cell – how it works chemically and mechanically. He describes Blue Waters – a supercomputer located at the University – which has a sustained performance of 1 million-billion operations per second. “Keeping computers cool is a roadblock to making them faster,” Gropp notes. So densely-packed rack drawers include copper tubing bring water for cooling through the racks to reduce heat. Also, on cool days, water travels to the building’s roof to exchange the heat – using free cooling. Blue Waters handles large data sets as it has 18 Petabytes of disk and 500 Petabytes of tape storage. This talk was recorded at TEDxUIUC 2011 (February 19, 2011), which was organized at the University by a group of students led by Cristian Mitreanu. This video runs about 18 minutes, with the section on Blue Waters beginning at about 13:30.
More about the speaker
William Gropp is the Paul and Cynthia Saylor Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Deputy Director for Research for the Institute of Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1982 and worked at Yale University and Argonne National Laboratory. His research interests are in parallel computing, software for scientific computing, and numerical methods for partial differential equations. He is Co-Principal Investigator of Blue Waters, a sustained Petascale computing system.