Information Technology Services Annual Report 2013
Data visualization improves research and teaching

The visualization wall is a high-definition, large-scale system of multiple liquid crystal displays on a single, expansive installation wall for use by Case Western Reserve faculty and their students who are engaged in scholarship and research that require high performance computing and large-scale visual representations of data. The visualization wall transforms how research findings are analyzed and communicated, and provides a powerful new way to gain a better understanding of the complexity of ideas and data through simulations, models, maps and infographics.

Combined with a parallel processor, the visualization wall’s 630-square-inch, 86-million-pixel display allows users to visualize the complex data patterns and subtleties in data that are necessary to identify patterns, singularities and details not otherwise apparent from raw data for hypothesis formation and scientific research.

In fiscal year 2013, a dedicated staff member was added to assist users and those interested in using the visualization, and a six-panel multitouch display in the Wood Building 71A was added and underwent testing for fiscal year 2014 use. This is a smaller version of the visualization wall for academic or research use.

In June 2013, Case Western Reserve hosted NASA’s MESSENGER conference. The NASA team made use of the visualization wall to share data collected from the robotic spacecraft’s orbit of Mercury. Dr. Steven A. Hauck, II, participating scientist with the NASA MESSENGER mission and professor of planetary geodynamics at Case Western Reserve, says, “Thank you so much for supporting the NASA MESSENGER team meeting breakout sessions at the visualization wall in the Kelvin Smith Library. In the two years since becoming the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, MESSENGER has collected an incredible amount of data over the entire planet. The team meeting at Case Western Reserve was the first time that our teams of scientists and engineers, who hail from institutions around the country and few from overseas, were able to collectively interact with spatially large swaths of data at such high resolution.”

Expanded online research data storage, battery backup

The High Performance Computing system was expanded to include 10 percent additional computing power and 40 percent additional storage as part of the continual upgrade to research computing. The additional computing power came through the replacement and the addition of 42 powerful and energy-efficient 16-core Dell servers and one high-memory server, which replaced 69 units of five-year-old Dell servers.

In addition, data storage capacity was expanded to more than 700 terabytes of nearline storage, an intermediate type of data storage between online and offline storage that allows for a reduction of database size and improved performance speed for the online system.

Finally, the HPC system was put on battery-backup/emergency generator power to eliminate lost time due to unscheduled downtime.This project improved the reliability and availability of current and future high performance computing equipment by changing the power feed from utility power to an uninterruptible generator power source to eliminate an estimated six outages per year.

As a result, the system’s overall computational performance is about 28.4 trillion floating-point operations per second (teraflops) coming from 2,792 CPU cores and another 66.8 teraflops from 25,280 GPU cores. These updates increased availability and improved access to the HPC system for researchers to continue conducting critical research and studying the resulting data.

New brochure showcases available research computing and technology services

In the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013, ITS’ Research Technologies unit published the “Research Computing and Technology Services” brochure to highlight the high performance computing resources and other technology services that are available to support the Case Western Reserve  research community.

The brochure features seven Case Western Reserve researchers’ work and their stories as to how they’ve leveraged ITS research technologies in their efforts.

Click here to view the brochure and read about some of the amazing research taking place at the university.

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