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New U Illinois Institute Pushes Parallel Computing Research into Double Time

A new institute within the University of Illinois' Coordinated Science Laboratory will focus on research and development in the area of parallel computing. The Parallel Computing Institute will promote interdisciplinary projects by providing access to resources and infrastructure, teaching students, going after grants, and facilitating partnerships among academia and industry.

The parallel computing scenario sets up multiple processors to work together on complex computing problems. The institute is the latest in a number of parallel computing-related operations at the university, including the Microsoft- and Intel-sponsored Universal Parallel Computing Research Center and the Institute for Advanced Computation and Applications Technology. Currently, U Illinois is also building Blue Waters, a joint effort with IBM and the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation, funded by the National Science Foundation. Blue Waters will be used for open scientific research and is anticipated to be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world when it's done.

"Illinois is already a leader in parallel computing, with tremendous depth and breadth in this area," said Bill Gropp, director of the new institute and a researcher in the Coordinated Science Lab. "What [the institute] aims to do is to provide researchers in different disciplines the opportunity to collaborate in an innovative, resource-rich environment. By approaching problems in a strategic, interdisciplinary way, we can develop solutions with greater impact."

One of the institute's first areas of focus will be research and education related to making it easier to program on parallel platforms. Areas of research will include building compilers for single-chip parallelism and designing new architectures for massively parallel systems.

The institute's administrators will work with researchers to prepare and submit proposals, reach out to potential industry partners, and make introductions among scientists in different fields to tackle problems in a systematic, interdisciplinary way.

The institute will capitalize on growing industry interest in parallelism, said Wen-mei Hwu, the institute's chief scientist. "Many commercial developers and software vendors are beginning to tackle parallel programming issues. We want to be the place where they come for help."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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