From Zero to One Billion: ICER Reaches High-Performance Computing Milestone

ICER's roots date back to 2005, although the name "Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research" had not been coined yet. The first system had 64 cores and 256 GB of RAM. Now, ICER has hundreds of nodes with twice as many cores, each over ten times faster than that first system. The storage has increased by a factor of one thousand, and the computational resources by a factor of over ten thousand.

In 2016, ICER started using a new tool to track High-Performance Computing Center (HPCC) usage. In January 2024, the HPCC passed one billion CPU hours dedicated to computational research. Andrew Keen, ICER's primary infrastructure and HPC architect, has been an integral part of ICER since the beginning.

"One billion CPU hours is a fun number showing our growth and scale," Keen said. "What really matters is our research impact; publications we have supported, students we have supported, and grants that have used our systems."

Keen attributed the growth in part to the rise of computation in research areas that were not traditional users of high-performance computing. For example, the establishment of MSU's Bioinformatics Core came from a need for computational analysis in biology, a field that had not traditionally used high-performance computing.

Traditionally represented groups like Engineering, Chemistry, and FRIB are still large users of the system, but computational research is increasingly important in virtually every field. The boom of artificial intelligence and machine learning has created opportunities for high-performance computing in areas that otherwise would not use these resources.

"It is incredible how much our scale has changed and how MSU’s computational research community has been able to grow," Keen reflected. "The milestone of passing one billion CPU hours shows the investment MSU has made in supporting research to provide a facility like this."

ICER averages 150 million CPU hours per year, which does not include GPUs, storage, or networking capabilities. Critically, this figure also leaves out the countless hours that ICER's research consultants invest in helping users implement high-performance computing in their research workflows. The true measure of success lies not solely in statistics but in the tangible contributions to the research community at MSU and beyond.

ICER looks forward to running another one billion CPU hours with you all!