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How Purdue And IU Keep Vying For The Fastest Supercomputer

Purdue's newly built supercomputer is the fastest university-owned computer--a title Indiana University's Big Red II held when it was dedicated in April.

  • purdue supercomputer

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    Photo: Purdue University

    Purdue's newest supercomputer Conte, is in Texas, but will be shipped and reassembled at Purdue University in August.

  • computer parts

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    Photo: Purdue University

    Purdue University's supercompter runs at a maximum speed of 1.342 petaflops.

  • Big Red II

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    Photo: Bill Shaw/WTIU News

    Big Red II was the fastest university-owned computer for two months before Purdue University unveiled a faster supercomputer.

Purdue University officials announced this month they had built a new supercomputer, stealing the title of the nation’s fastest university-owned computer from Indiana University, which dedicated its newest supercomputer only two months prior.

The Indiana University computer, called Big Red II, ran at speed up to 1 petaflop, or 1 quadrillion operations per second. Purdue’s computer, Conte, runs up to 1.342 petaflops.

These are not the first supercomputers the universities have owned. IU has built two supercomputers. Purdue University has taken a different approach, building a supercomputer nearly every year.

Here’s a list of the supercomputers the universities have built:

Big Red: 2006: IU, Maximum speed: 20.6 teraflops
Steele: 2008. Purdue, Maximum speed: 67.33 teraflops
Coates: 2009. Purdue, Maximum speed: 79.44 teraflops
Rossman: 2010. Purdue, Maximum speed: 92.94 teraflops
Carter: 2011. Purdue, Maximum speed: 215.65 teraflops
Big Red II: 2013. IU, Maximum speed: 1 petaflop
Conte: 2013. Purdue, Maximum speed 1.342 petaflops

Purdue University Chief Information Officer Gerry McCartney says there are great benefits to having two supercomputers in Indiana. They attract researchers from around the world who need to perform thousands or millions of computations within a short amount of time. McCartney also says the competition to have the fastest computer keeps Purdue and IU working toward the best technology in the nation.

“Competition is no harm at all and it just keeps everybody on their toes a little bit. I’d feel worse if our competition was somewhere else. I’m glad it’s IU, and I’m glad we’re winning,” McCartney says.

But IU Vice President for Information Technology Brad Wheeler says he does not see the technology as a competition.

“Competition between us and Purdue would be basketball and occasionally football. In this particular matter, we’re really fortunate that both institutions have great IT shops, play large roles in leadership and research in the state,” he says.

Although IU and Purdue collaborate on a number of research projects, IU’s computer is built to accommodate researchers in the life sciences field and Purdue’s is more focused on engineering.

Purdue’s newest computer Conte is still in Texas where it was created. The university plans to install it and have it up and running in August.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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