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Computer cluster opens new research possibilities

Computer engineer Adam Munro oversees the operation of UVA’s new computer cluster. Sanjay Suchak/University Communications

In 1960, the University installed its first computer, a Burroughs 205 (incidentally, the same computer was used in the Bat Cave during the 1960s television series Batman). The massive computer’s central processing system included 1,800 vacuum tubes.

Nearly 55 years later, UVA has a new $2.4 million Cray computing cluster—a group of linked high-power computers—that will provide a significant boost to data-intensive research at the University in fields such as astronomy, pharmacology, chemistry, physics, engineering, data mining and large-scale text analysis.

The University’s first computer, installed in 1960 Courtesy of the UVA Computer Museum

“The capabilities of this high-performance cluster will enable us to do new explorations in science and develop new design solutions for engineering problems,” says Don Brown, director of UVA’s Data Science Institute, which provided major support for obtaining the new cluster.

Housed at the University Data Center, the Cray cluster provides the combined computational power of 4,800 individual PCs.

“We needed to fill a space in our computing capacity at the University so our researchers, and future researchers, can be highly competitive for grants and research time at national labs with the most advanced computers,” says astronomer John Hawley, associate dean for the sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences.