Last week I got a tour of the Center for Computational Research at the University of Buffalo.
They have a lot of computers. Most of them say Dell on the front. Most of them are doing really cool things.
I was most impressed with how well an academic environment can work. One of their clusters is rated in the top 20 or so for raw computing power but poorly performing code to manage it. Another university had the optimized code without the hardware. They worked it out and both sides won. UatB got a 20% increase in teraflops. I have been in corporate environments for too long, I think.
I am short on detail because I was too busy drooling at their beautiful machine rooms. I've seen a lot of machine rooms, but these actually looked clean, orderly, and friendly. I think it must have been the slightly dimmed lights and the nice colors on everything. The spiralling staircase to the second floor was a nice touch. They have so many computers they're turning high ceilings into two low ceilings. The tiled display wall looks like it belongs in some sort of NSA secret situation room. Oh, and they have Internet-2.
What do they do with all of this power? I got to watch the virtual reality thing rotate some sort of pharmaceutical molecule and virtually drive to the nearest gentlemen's club across the river in Canada. You know, the usual stuff computers do.
If you get the chance to take the tour, take the tour. They give you a free mug at the end.
Seriously, Randal and I were close to begging for a job. They are doing some cool stuff in Buffalo, and not just with computer clusters. Too bad it's in Buffalo---the farthest point from New York City still in New York.