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Technology research facility opens

CREST is a unit of IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute established in 2008 through a $15 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. It is affiliated with the School of Informatics and Computing, University Information Technology Services and the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology.

Andrew Lumsdaine and Thomas Sterling will serve as director and co-director of the center, respectively. Both are professors in the School of Informatics and Computing.

CREST began when Lumsdaine and Sterling presented individual projects at a National Security Agency meeting and realized they were attacking the same set of problems from two different directions.

Two and a half years ago, PTI Executive Director Craig Stewart worked to recruit Sterling to come to IU from Louisiana State University.

In August 2011, Sterling arrived on campus.

“Andrew is one of IU’s leading scientific computing researchers, and Thomas is known the world over,” Stewart said. “I am personally thrilled to have Thomas at IU. It has certainly been a banner year when IU has demonstrated and redoubled its commitment to solving these problems.”

Sterling said there is a “critical challenge facing the world of supercomputing,” and CREST will explore possible solutions to the problems. A supercomputer is a computer that processes mass amounts of data for a particular purpose.

“CREST represents a very bold initiative into the frontiers of large-scale computing. Dr. Lumsdaine and Dr. Sterling are at the forefront of thinking about what’s possible as science goes into a new scale in terms of the size of data previously unimagined,” said Brad Wheeler, IU vice president for information technology and CIO. “IU is well positioned to lead in this effort, and we are lucky to have the backing of the Lilly Endowment in creating the pervasive technology institute.”

Sterling said as technology continued to improve throughout the years, their individual processors were able to keep up, but that is no longer the case.

Due to power constraints, technology improves, but the performance of an individual processor does not. He said the only way to fix the shortage is to use more and more processors, which would lead supercomputers to use 1,000 more processors by the end of the decade.

The center will also develop a new run-time system to increase energy efficiency for regular technology applications, which currently use 10 percent efficiency.

Sterling said the energy cost of the machine would eventually exceed its original cost.
“This is not a small research activity,” he said. “This is a challenge at the national and international level that CREST is undertaking.”

CREST is housed in the new Cyberinfrastructure Building.

“The center is anticipated to exist indefinitely. We are tackling problems that cannot be done today, but we are going to create the means to do it,” Sterling said. “This is revolutionary, and this revolution is going to occur in the next three to seven years. Indiana University is at the forefront, and that is not an exaggeration.”

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