Research Computing Facility and Schorr Center
While walking to lunch or to a football game, one may
recently have noticed the shiny new building below
South Stadium. After serving the athletic department
since 1972, this building has been given new life as the
Paul and June Schorr III Center for Computer Science and
Engineering, home of the Research Computing Facility.
David Swanson, after completing his Ph.D. in chemistry
at the UNL, worked on several post-doctorate research
projects in computing. He returned to UNL in 1999 to
continue his computer research. He was hired to establish the
Research Computing Facility (RCF) that year, with funding
from the National Science Foundation's Experimental
Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The principle
investigators included the original chair of the RCF Advisory
Committee, Professor Sharad Seth of CSCE, and Kent
Hendrickson of Information Services.
"This is a vast improvement over
the 300 square feet in the old
Miller & Paine Building."
"Back then, I was a one-man operation," said Swanson,
director of the RCF. "Now, we have five full-time staff, seven
student workers, and three main machines."
Originally, the RCF provided an eight-CPU machine
from SGI. Until this year, the Computer Science and
Engineering Department (CSCE) and RCF were located in
various places, including rented space in the old Miller &
Paine Building at 13th and O Streets, with research housed
in Ferguson Hall. Research assistants operated from the
501 Building. Additional machines were located in Scott
Above: Red is the largest supercomputer on the UNL City Campus.
Photo: Dan Mott
The idea came about to consolidate all of these
computing facilities in one central location.
"About 13 years ago, renovations and upgrades were
promised for Computer Science and Engineering facilities in
Avery Hall," Swanson said. "Between the time of that promise and when it became reality, CSCE
space needs doubled."
At about this time, the South
Stadium building became available.
Paul "Chip" Schorr IV and Melissa
Condo, the children of Paul
and June Schorr III, provided a
significant contribution toward
renovating and redesigning the
former South Stadium Building.
"The family saw it as a unique
project to honor their parents,"
said Robb Crouch, director of
public relations for the University
of Nebraska Foundation. "They
are excited about unifying the computing areas."
Paul Schorr III, from Hastings,
and June, from Chicago, moved
to Lincoln in high school, where
they met. They attended UNL and
graduated in 1959, a year after they
were married. Paul graduated with
a degree in electrical engineering.
He is currently president and
CEO of ComCor Holding, Inc.,
in Lincoln. June graduated with
degrees in fashion merchandising
Construction on the Schorr
Center began in January 2007
and was completed in late 2007. PrairieFire, Merritt and Red, the
three supercomputers, were moved
to the new building in March 2008.
The basement of the Schorr Center
has 2,500 square feet of space for
"This is a vast improvement
over the 300 square feet in the old
Miller & Paine Building," Swanson
said. Production-quality cooling
and ventilation systems were also
built into this room.
PrairieFire was originally
constructed in 2002. It was the
first clustered machine at the
RCF. At that time, it was ranked
as the 107th most powerful
supercomputer in the world. It has
since dropped out of the TOP500
list, but 400 new cores were
added in 2008. A core is a basic
processing unit. Most new PCs
and laptops today have dual cores:
two independent processors on the
chip. PrairieFire now has 650 cores.
It is used by campus researchers for
such areas as quantum chemistry,
quantum physics, finite element
modeling and genome research.
Above: The Schorr Center is located
under South Stadium behind Avery Hall.
Photo: Brian Neilson
Merritt is an Altix shared
memory machine with 512 GB
of RAM. Most PCs have one or
two GB of RAM. Chemists use
the shared platform to compute
electronic structure. Meteorologists
use it for modeling climate, and
mechanical engineers use it for
modeling materials. Merritt is named after Merritt Reservoir near Valentine.
Red is the largest supercomputer at the RCF. It currently supports over 240 TB of data. It performs at over
nine teraflops. Red recently added 100 TB of storage and 640 cores, bringing the total to 1,100 cores. It serves the
new Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which does atom smashing research. There are computers all around
the world working together on this, and Red is one of them.
A large flat-panel monitor in the main office of the Schorr Center graphically features an aquarium full
of "fish." This is not just art, however. Each fish on the screen represents a computing node in one of the
supercomputers. Red fish are from the Red cluster. Green fish correspond to PrairieFire. The larger the fish, the
larger the load that node is carrying.
"If ‘dead fish' are found floating at the top, they represents the nodes that are currently not responding," said
Carl Lundstedt, grid system administrator.
The RCF is not a department entity. However, students in the CSCE department conduct research there,
with the vast majority of users both undergraduate and graduate students, noted Swanson.
Above: Each fish represents a node in the PrairieFire and the Red
supercomputers. This flat panel screen can be seen in the main
office of the Schorr Center. Photo: Dan Mott |
Above: Production-quality cooling and ventilation systems keep
the PrairieFire and Merritt supercomputers running smoothly.
Photo: Dan Mott
For more information about the Schorr Center and the supercomputers, visit the RCF Web site at
http://rcf.unl.edu or contact the center at: email@example.com.