NM supercomputer could get parceled out

December 24, 2012 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s $11 million supercomputer could end up being parceled out to three of the state’s research universities.

State Information Technology Secretary Darryl Ackley told the Albuquerque Journal ( that the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Tech are proposing to cannibalize it and put some of the assets back into service.

“Barring someone offering to buy the whole machine, we can still get piecemeal use from it,” Ackley said.

There were a number of inquiries to buy the machine but none panned out [auth] because of the expense of running it, Ackley said.

The machine — dubbed “Encanto” — is made up of 28 racks of processors. Each rack has 500 processors, making it capable of running 172 trillion calculations per second.

UNM wants 10 of the computing racks. NMSU wants four, and New Mexico Tech wants two.

State officials are expected to make a decision on whether to part out the supercomputer by the end of the month. Ackley’s department is assessing the technical feasibility of breaking the computer into pieces and is evaluating what to do with the remaining racks not taken by the universities.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration had once billed Encanto as an economic development tool to boost research by the universities and high-tech companies.

The supercomputer was ranked third-fastest in the world when the state bought it in 2008 under the watch of Richardson, a Democrat. However, it no longer ranks even among the top 100 supercomputers worldwide and is now only worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

The state has spent about $20 million on the machine. That includes the $11 million price tag plus $9 million for maintenance operations and to set up access for colleges and universities around the state.

The New Mexico Computing Applications Center, the nonprofit that managed the supercomputer under an agreement with the state, estimated Encanto’s capacity helped leverage $60 million in federal funding for university research.

John McGraw, UNM’s interim vice president for research and development, said putting some of Encanto’s racks to use at each university is one way the state could recover at least some of its investment.

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