UT computing center in North Austin earns $60M grant for new supercomputer


A new $60 million supercomputer that would be the fifth fastest in the world will begin operating in 2019 at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Funding for the new supercomputer, called Frontera, is coming from a grant awarded Wednesday by the National Science Foundation. The TACC is located at UT’s J.J. Pickle Research Campus at 10100 Burnet Road, Austin, near The Domain.

Frontera will allow researchers to make discoveries in various scientific fields from astrophysics to zoology, according to a TACC news release.

“Supercomputers—like telescopes for astronomy or particle accelerators for physics—are essential research instruments that are needed to answer questions that can’t be explored in the lab or in the field,” TACC Executive Director Dan Stanzione said in the release. “Our previous systems have enabled major discoveries, from the confirmation of gravitational wave detections by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory to the development of artificial-intelligence-enabled tumor detection systems. Frontera will help science and engineering advance even further.”

The new supercomputer will run concurrently with another supercomputer called Stampede2 that the TACC put into operation last year. The TACC has built and operated three supercomputers since 2006 that are among the most powerful in the world, according to the center.

Aaron Dubrow, strategic communications specialist at the TACC, said Stampede2, which can complete 300 years’ worth of math problems in one day, will operate more often on smaller projects while Frontera will operate fewer larger projects.

“Frontera is also different in that it’s Phase 1 of a larger, longer-term effort by NSF to develop a ‘leadership-class computing facility,’” he said in an email. “What that means is that, in addition to serving as a resource for computational science, Frontera will act as a test bed to try out and assess new, emerging technologies, and to use that testing to design a system that is 10 times faster than Frontera to come online in about five years.”

The TACC expects some of Frontera’s early projects could include analyzing particle collisions from the Large Hadron Collider, modeling global climates and improving hurricane forecasting. Learn more here.

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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