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News Release 08-130

NSF Announces Partnership with Industry, Academia to Further Explore Data-Intensive Computing

Collaboration between NSF, University of Illinois, HP, Intel, Yahoo! provides template for research partnerships

Illustration of data clusters or server farms.

The Illinois data cluster will provide resources to the academic research and education community.

July 30, 2008

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate announces a grant award to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to help establish an experimental computing cluster at the UIUC campus. The NSF Cluster Exploratory (CluE) initiative was first announced in April 2008 to provide NSF-funded researchers access to software and services running on a Google-IBM cluster. The UIUC award together with funding and equipment supplied by HP, Intel, Yahoo! and UIUC expands the CluE program to provide researchers access to an additional cluster for data-intensive computing research.

The new computing cluster further advances NSF's strategic investments in the vital new area of data-intensive computing by greatly expanding the kinds of data-intensive computing research now possible via this new national resource. Funding from the NSF grant will be combined with contributions from UIUC and Yahoo! to purchase the cluster's computing equipment. HP will provide a significant equipment discount and Intel will be donating processors. The new computer cluster will be managed by UIUC and will be open to academic users from other institutions to explore data-intensive computing.

Data-intensive computing arises from the confluence of many societal and technological factors. The broad availability of data coupled with increased capabilities and decreased costs of both storage and computing technologies has led to a rethinking of how we solve problems that were previously impractical to solve. Such data-intensive computing is at the forefront of ultra-large-scale commercial data processing, and industry has taken the lead in creating data-centers comprised of myriad servers storing petabytes of data to support their business objectives and to provide services at Internet-scale. The UIUC award establishes a partnership between NSF, University of Illinois, HP, Intel and Yahoo! that will provide CISE researchers a platform to conduct systems-level research in support of data-intensive computing.

"The National Science Foundation is very excited about partnering with industry and academia in our shared interest in data-intensive computing," said Jeannette Wing, NSF's assistant director for CISE. "The new cluster at Illinois is a key  ingredient  in our efforts to make available massively scaled, highly distributed, data-centered computing resources to the U.S. academic research and education community.

"This effort will differ markedly from existing experimental clusters," said UIUC computer science professor and interim head of department Michael Heath, one of three researchers leading the Illinois effort. "With previous efforts focused on networking or user-level applications, the gaping need to process and respond to large amounts of data has been inadequately addressed. Our effort will go deep into the system software stack to explore new and better ways to provide system-level support for data-intensive computing."

The NSF-sponsored center at UIUC will be part of the HP, Intel, Yahoo! Cloud Computing Test Bed, one of six "centers of excellence" that HP, Intel and Yahoo! are creating around the world to help foster research in data-intensive computing. Each location will host a cloud computing infrastructure with 1,000 to 4,000 processor cores capable of supporting the data-intensive research associated with cloud computing.

"The challenge for the computing research community is to find a way to turn massive data into knowledge. The potential impact in fields as diverse as medicine, biology, physics, meteorology and even the social sciences like economics are virtually limitless," said Wing.

"NSF hopes this initiative will help lead to innovations in the field of data-intensive computing, as well as serve as an example for future collaborations between the private sector and the academic computing research community," she said.


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-7750, email:

Program Contacts
James C. French, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8930, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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