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More for Le$$

Georgia State University was the first SURAgrid site to have its IBM System p5 up and running and connected to the SURAgrid. And users are still lining up to use it.

Photography by Bob Mahoney


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CUSTOMER: Georgia State University
BUSINESS: Higher education
HARDWARE: An IBM System p 575 with 12 nodes with eight dual-core 1.9 GHz IBM POWER5+ processors; an IBM Cluster 1350 with 40 dual Intel Xeon Quad-Core processors (320 cores)
CHALLENGE: Meeting the increasing demands of its faculty and student researchers
SOLUTION: Helping establish SURAgrid and becoming a member of the initiative to take advantage of a high-performance grid-computing environment

My wife recently encouraged me to join a health club. I was a bit hesitant at first, but after a little arm-twisting (I didn’t know she was that strong), I’ve since become enthusiastic about it, throwing on my workout shorts, shirt and shoes and hitting the bikes, treadmills and weights. Now 10 pounds lighter, I sometimes ask myself why I didn’t do it earlier.

Price was certainly a factor (I’m cheap by nature), but when I considered what it would cost me to purchase all of that equipment myself, well, that excuse was quickly abandoned. I now have access to all of those fine make-me-buff machines for around $20 a month, the price ameliorated because I’m sharing the gym—and more important, the costs—with other people. It’s like a commune without the Birkenstocks and granola.

So how much of this relates to computing? In the world of grid computing, quite a lot. Rather than individual institutions purchasing all of the computers, storage and sundry other computing equipment they need to meet the requirements of their users, they can purchase just parts of it and put it on a grid for others to use in exchange for their equipment—all at a much reduced price for each individual institution. One of the most notable—and written-about—examples of this is the SURAgrid, where SURA stands for the Southeastern Universities Research Association. SURAgrid is made up of a consortium of SURA member universities, as well as some non-SURA schools, from across the country.

We covered SURAgrid in the April/May issue of IBM Systems Magazine, Open Systems edition, but thought it might be interesting to take another look at this initiative from a participant’s point of view, in this case, Georgia State University. As with other SURAgrid participants, it was faced with the aforementioned dilemma: buy and own everything itself, or share what it had and was about to acquire with others. Costs being only one of the deciding factors (supercomputing on a massive scale being another), it chose the latter option, and now, thanks to the purchase of a beefy IBM* System p* server in June 2006 and acquisition of an IBM Cluster 1350 in October 2007, the university’s an integral part of this important—and growing—scientific educational community.


Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at



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