Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CIRRUS sets the stage for propelling U-M
research forward
Cluster offers researchers new high-performance computing options>

Efforts to provide an expanded portfolio of integrated research computing services at U-M are off to a good start with a new strategic partnership between the Office of Research Cyberinfrastructure and Information and Technology Services.

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The departments are joining together to create an initiative called Computing and Information Resources for Research as a Utility Service (CIRRUS). Based on a shared-services model, the effort also includes support from other units, such as the College of Engineering, Medical School, and LSA. 

The plans call for a national search for a director to lead the overall research computing services. This role will report to both Dan Atkins, associate vice president for Research Cyberinfrastructure, and to Laura Patterson, chief information officer and associate vice president for Information and Technology Services. Atkins is serving as the interim director.

CIRRUS will provide the foundation for U-M’s research cyberinfrastructure by developing the strategy, demand forecasting, and key technologies required to support high-performance computing. The team already is moving forward with campus efforts to provide high performance clusters and to improve storage options for researchers. The goal is to provide services for a wide range of needs such as modeling, simulation, prediction, and data mining; data management and visualization; virtual organizations; and educational enhancements.

“Due to the rapid growth in scientific data, data sets are becoming the new instruments of science,” says Atkins. “Research communities around the world recognize that computationally intensive efforts, such as modeling and simulation, and data-intensive fields like genetics have moved us away from the laboratory and classroom to a new frontier of data exploration that some are calling a fourth science paradigm.”

“As a leading research institution we need to provide leading research services. CIRRUS will help us better serve our own researchers and enable us to play a broader role as partners with other institutions engaged in global scale research,” says Patterson.

In March, a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel for Research Data Strategy for U-M was established to help tackle the complex issue of data management. According to Patterson, the panel will provide guidance to the CIRRUS team on the why, what, and how of our research data strategy.

“We expect the panel to share its data strategy recommendations in September and we already are testing a high performance cluster, nicknamed FLUX,” she says.

CIRRUS is part of the NextGen Michigan strategy to develop a world-class, 21st-century information technology infrastructure in support of the academic, research, teaching, and learning missions of the university.