Supercomputing in the Rockies

Last week I got out of the office for a few days to visit the beautiful city of Butte, Montana — home to Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centres, Inc (RMSC). This small company is on the forefront of High Performance Computing (HPC) in Montana, and provides supercomputing to businesses and academic users. I met with them to learn more about their company and operations.

RMSC has a very clean, simple system, with a very direct aim: supplying supercomputing to SME's, startups and public sector initiatives.  Although their system operates a lot like WestGrid, they also have a lot in common with Cybera, namely the goal of enabling next-generation discoveries, advances and solutions for high performance computing applications in the private and public sectors.

RMSC partners with the Montana Economic Revitalization and Development Institute (MERDI), an organization that specializes in energy research, commercialization for technology transfer and economic development. MERDI also runs the datacenter that houses RMSC's super computer, and provide physical hosting and some virtual hosting to RMSC as well.

RMSC developed a plan which brought together a diverse group of funders, including MERDI, interested in developing advanced technology centres of excellence in the state of Montana. Their first system was purchased from IBM, and has been in operation for the past year. They have very successfully attracted both business-oriented and academic users, and are currently seeking to expand the system to keep up with demand.

This is a remarkable initiative by a sparsely-populated state. On close examination it becomes clear that a state like Montana working in the current economic climate really does have the potential, and need, for significant supercomputing use. For instance the system is being used to model Wind power systems, and to model modern farming practices including the analysis of related financial markets. It is worth noting that the issues being addressed are almost identical to those of interest to Alberta! We hope that Cybera can learn from the RMSC and apply the lessons to the development of cyberinfrastructure in Alberta.