Research computing uses supercomputers and computer clusters to solve advanced computation problems that cannot be addressed using a typical workstation or laptop, because they are highly computation-intensive, data-intensive, or both. Questions of science with once unattainable answers are being simulated and manipulated using HPC, unveiling statistics and approximations that classic lab experiments cannot accommodate. At William & Mary, HPC is applied to a diverse and ever-changing set of topics including ocean modeling, quantum and particle physics, health sciences, acoustics, mathematics, operations research, Bayesian computation (statistics), and econometrics.
W&M Information Technology manages two interoperable cluster computing facilities. The SciClone project was conceived in the late 1990s to fulfill a dual role as a scientific computing resource and as a test bed for heterogeneous cluster computing. Initial funding was secured in 1999 from the National Science Foundation, and the first phase of the system went into production in August 2000 at Savage House. Since then, both the concept and the hardware have evolved to focus squarely on research and instructional computing. In 2016, the cluster moved from the basement of Jones Hall, where it had resided since 2008, to its present home on the first floor of the Integrated Science Center, where it absorbed the former CPD/Storm cluster that had resided since 2001 at the Applied Research Center in Newport News. Chesapeake, located at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, came online during the summer of 2014.
Now in their seventh generation of hardware, SciClone and Chesapeake have a combined theoretical peak performance of 360 teraflops, or three hundred sixty trillion floating point operations per second. This measure of computational capacity describes how many basic arithmetic functions (such as additions and multiplications) could be performed within one second under the most ideal of circumstances.
Both clusters are available free of charge to any member of the William & Mary faculty, staff, or student body with a legitimate need for their services in any discipline. For more information consult the W&M HPC User's Guide, or contact IT's HPC group.