Vanderbilt to invest $1M in advanced computing to improve faculty research infrastructure

Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan
Padma Raghavan, vice provost for research

To ensure that researchers who need advanced computing have the required support in place, Vanderbilt will invest nearly $1 million in a new high-performance storage system, Vice Provost for Research Padma Raghavan announced today. Vanderbilt’s Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education, or ACCRE, expects to have the upgrades in place by the start of the fall 2022 semester, bringing enhanced resilience and efficiency to Vanderbilt’s research data and resulting in more usable storage space and reduced downtime for researchers.

“Currently, over 3,000 researchers are using ACCRE resources—a number that has more than tripled in the most recent five years. At the same time, their storage needs have grown nearly tenfold to over 12 petabytes, placing huge pressures on outdated infrastructure,” Raghavan said. “I am pleased that Provost Raver is investing in upgrades so that on-campus advanced computing can better serve faculty needs for research.”

Having this new system in place allows Vanderbilt faculty to confidently apply for more ambitious, competitive grants and pursue research that necessitates advanced data analysis and computing, including artificial intelligence, as well as massive complex data sets such as those produced by next-generation imaging.

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver
C. Cybele Raver, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs

“Much of today’s most pressing and high-impact research requires extraordinarily large amounts of data and the computing capabilities to support it,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs C. Cybele Raver said. “Vanderbilt faculty, including the 17 members of the ACCRE Faculty Advisory Board, engage in this work every day. The advisory board recommended these near-term investments as a powerful way to support our research mission.”

One example of a faculty member eagerly anticipating the ACCRE enhancements is Victoria Greene, Stevenson Chair in Physics and director of graduate studies for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Greene began researching relativistic heavy ion physics at Vanderbilt more than 25 years ago and has been involved with ACCRE since its beginning.

Greene is reapplying for a three-year research grant to support her computing and storage hardware through the Department of Energy that requires a site visit to ensure that she has access to equipment necessary for the work. With the assurance that these enhancements will be in place, Greene feels confident her site visit will be successful.

“When the ACCRE upgrade was being discussed, I considered how essential ACCRE has become to my research,” Greene said. “One heavy ion run at the Large Hadron Collider accelerator at CERN in Geneva produces eight petabytes, an enormous amount of data. We store this data at ACCRE, and physicists from all over the world perform state-of-the-art nuclear physics data analysis using ACCRE. It is also an essential training ground in high-performance computing for young scientists, and the ACCRE staff offer exceptional educational opportunities for new users. The upgrade will make ACCRE much more stable and useful for a greater number of research groups, which ensures that researchers like my colleagues and me will continue to host robust research programs on campus.”

“For Greene and others, these enhancements give confidence that research can proceed as expected on grants already won and expand the horizon for what research can be pursued moving forward,” Raghavan said.

To follow the enhancement process and learn more about ACCRE, visit its website.