LONI Supercomputer Inaugurated at Tulane

March 20, 2006

Mike Strecker
Phone: 504-865-5210

Ducky has landed in New Orleans, but make no mistake, this duck is no birdbrain. Ducky is the nickname of Tulane University's new IBM P5 server, a lightning-fast supercomputer that will enable Tulane to participate in the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, known more commonly as LONI.

The computer, inaugurated in a ceremony today at Tulane University, is being hailed not only as another major milestone for the LONI project, but also as a sure sign that New Orleans is emerging from the devastation of Katrina wired for the future. The supercomputer was dedicated in memory of Karlem "Ducky" Riess, an emeritus professor of physics at Tulane University who lost his life as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

"The installation and activation of this powerful computer at Tulane University is another giant step toward the completion of the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, a project that is already transforming Louisiana into a major player in the world of high-speed grid computing," said Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. "But it's much more than that. It is significant, even symbolic, that in the very heart of post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana has laid one of the cornerstones of a technology infrastructure that will play a critical role in our state's economic future. New Orleans is truly once again open for business!"

The Louisiana Optical Network Initiative is a fiber optic network that will soon interconnect mainframe computers at Louisiana's major research universities, allowing computation speeds more than 1,000 times the rate previously possible, and transforming the research capability of Louisiana's educational institutions. Governor Blanco has pledged $40 million over 10 years for the initiative.

"We are very excited that Tulane is participating in the LONI project. We applaud the governor's backing of this initiative to bring Louisiana into the top tier of states in the area of supercomputing and research," says Paul Barron, interim chief information officer at Tulane University. "This supercomputer provides one more tool for Tulane's incredibly talented researchers to do high level scientific computing to contribute to their already world class research."

"The installation of the IBM P5 computer and its connection to LONI is an extraordinarily important event for scientific researchers in this region," said Yvette Jones, senior vice president for external affairs at Tulane, who chairs the biosciences subcommittee of the Economic Development Committee of Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission. "This is one of the fastest computers in the nation, and it will allow Tulane scientists to perform calculations on physical and physiological systems that have not been possible until now. In addition, this will help us to collaborate with other high-caliber researchers globally. Finally, we anticipate that resources such as this will improve the overall environment for scientific discovery, and this will help us to attract scientists to New Orleans. This is phenomenally important to our region in the post-Katrina environment. All in all, this is a great day for scientific computing."

As an immediate benefit of LONI, the Louisiana Board of Regents has become a member of the National LambdaRail (NLR), a nationwide grid-computing infrastructure that is expected to have the same effect on our nation's technological development as the interstate highway system has had on interstate commerce.

LONI and NLR have far-reaching implications for Louisiana's research competitiveness and long-term economic development potential. In fact, many Louisiana universities are already engaged in potentially-valuable research that will be exponentially enhanced by LONI and NLR. LONI will access the national grid by means of a node located in Baton Rouge, eventually connecting colleges and universities in every region of the state.

"The positive implications of LONI and our participation in the National LambdaRail can not be overstated," said Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie. "Louisiana now has a place at the table in the world of supercomputing. The future of university research in Louisiana - and the kind of economic development that can accrue as a result - looks bright indeed."

Tulane's Ducky is the second LONI project server to be deployed beyond the LSU-Baton Rouge campus (which already has its LONI servers in place). Next in line to take delivery of their P5s are the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of New Orleans, and Southern University - Baton Rouge. The LONI project is expected to be completed this summer.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000