UMass Amherst Awarded NSF Grant to Expand its UNITY Computer Cluster

Increased data processing power will allow for computationally heavy research in climate, energy, medicine, materials science, health and astronomy

UMass Amherst professor Michael Zink, electrical and computer engineering, is principal investigator of a new $399,676 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to extend the university’s cutting-edge computer cluster to be used by scientists from UMass Amherst, UMass Dartmouth and the University of Rhode Island for important calculations in gravitational wave science, metagenomics, earthquake detection and cancer modeling, among other applications.

Michael Zink
Michael Zink

The new grant, “Collaborative Next-generation Technology in the Northeast: The UMassUnity Machine” (CONTINUUM) from the NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure will extend UMass’s UNITY cluster with eight novel servers, each equipped with dual IBM Power9 2.7 GHz 16-core processors and 256 GB of memory that support cutting-edge IBM Power, Nvidia Tesla V100 GPGPU (a graphics processing unit programmed for use beyond graphics processing) and Xilinx Alveo U50 field-programmable gate arrays. This will provide the necessary data processing power for computationally heavy research in broad scientific areas such as climate, energy, medicine, materials science, health and astronomy.

“Not only will the new servers support many more collaborative research teams on the three campuses, but CONTINUUM will also enable scientific development for the entire Open Science Grid (OSG) community, which will have access to 20% of its compute time,” Zink says. The new servers will also be an important tool for undergraduate and graduate student training in the efficient use of cutting-edge HPC systems, he added.

The OSG organizes the computational backbone for complex, high-throughput computing research in the U.S. In the last 12 months, it has provided more than 1.2 billion CPU hours to researchers across a wide variety of projects, such as for the Event Horizon Telescope Project’s creation of an image of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

UNITY is a high-performance research computing cluster started by UMass Amherst. It is located in Holyoke in the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computer Center (MGHPCC), a joint venture of the University of Massachusetts system, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston, Harvard and Northeastern universities.

The University of Rhode Island became the first MGHPCC partner from outside Massachusetts in late 2021 and has since committed to join UNITY in the purchase of computational hardware and software worth approximately $2.2 million that will support its high-performance computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence research efforts.