The Need for Speed

UITS announced in summer 2019 that it will acquire Big Red 200, which will be one of the fastest university-owned AI supercomputers. Named in celebration of IU’s 2020 bicentennial, it will power faster calculations and advanced simulations for the next generation of research in fields ranging from medicine to climate change to cybersecurity.

Legendary IU President Herman B Wells set the foundation for IU’s supercomputing legacy. In his 1953 State of the University speech, he foretold the need for “modern high-speed computing machines” to solve complicated problems in the physical, biological, and social sciences and in business and education.

His words are still true today. Faster supercomputers are needed to solve modern problems.

From those foundations, in 1996 IU President Myles Brand appointed Michael A. McRobbie as IU’s first vice president for information technology. Brand set a goal for IU to be a leader “in absolute terms for uses and applications of IT.”

The Pervasive Technology Institute got its start with a $30 million grant award in 1999 from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. to IU with McRobbie as the IU principal investigator. PTI continues as one of IU’s premier research and development organizations between OVPIT and the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.

McRobbie accelerated IU’s emphasis on cyberinfrastructure during his ten years of IT leadership. Following his 2007 inauguration as IU president, IU has continued to assert its leadership in supercomputing and the research it makes possible.

A timeline of Supercomputing at IU

  • 2001 IBM SP is upgraded to become the first 1 teraFLOPS university owned supercomputer in the U.S.
  • 2003 AVIDD debuts in 50th place on the Top500 list of fastest supercomputers
  • 2006 IU’s Big Red Supercomputer debuts in 23rd place on the Top500 list
  • 2013 IU dedicates Big Red II, the first 1 petaFLOPS supercomputer owned by a U.S. university
  • 2019 Big Red 200 will be six times faster than Big Red II, accelerating IU’s research