Princeton announces plans for new computing research center at Forrestal

Princeton University plans to build a facility to house its high-performance computing research systems on the Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro about three miles north of the main campus.

The High-Performance Computing Research Center would be located on the University's property just north of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. It would serve as home of TIGRESS -- the Terascale Infrastructure for Groundbreaking Research in Engineering and Science Center. It also would support a much smaller component of the University's administrative computing capacity.

The new facility would have approximately 40,000 square feet and would comprise three functional components: a computing area; an electrical and mechanical support area; and a small office/support area. The two-story building would be about 50 feet high.

If approvals and construction proceed as planned, the facility would be operational in 2011 and would be staffed by three people. It is expected to support the University's program needs through at least 2017. The facility is sited to allow for future expansion; a second phase of construction potentially could double the square footage.

"Princeton's computing research program is growing rapidly and across many disciplines, including astrophysical modeling of the universe, galaxy formation and star implosions; geophysical modeling of the propagation of seismological waves; chemical modeling of molecular dynamics; high-energy physical modeling of subatomic particle collisions and plasma and materials modeling to render fusion a practical source of clean energy; and biochemical, biostatistical and biomathematical modeling to design new drugs and to map genes and protein function," said Curt Hillegas, director of TIGRESS.

TIGRESS is intended to create a well-balanced set of high-performance computing resources to meet the broad computational requirements of the University research community.

Currently located at 87 Prospect Ave. and at the Lewis Library, TIGRESS houses six computing systems that range in speed from 700 megahertz to 3.2 gigahertz. It brings together funding, support and participation from the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering, the Office of Information Technology, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, as well as a number of academic departments and faculty members.

The relocation of TIGRESS was anticipated as part of the University's 10-year Campus Plan.

"This growth accompanies the emergence of computation as a third mode of research in science and engineering, along with pure (analytic) theory and experiment/observation," Hillegas said. "The required computational infrastructure to support the increased demand has outgrown the currently available data center resources on campus. This new High-Performance Computing Research Center will enable our continued leadership at the forefront of research in these areas, engaged in finding solutions of service to society."

The site at Forrestal is intended to enhance the center's ability to partner with both the neighboring Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, a part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that has a collaborative program in atmospheric and oceanic sciences with Princeton, and the nearby Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the University.

The University is working with the following firms on this project: San Francisco-based Gensler on architecture; AKF Group of Boston on engineering; and New York City-based CS Technology on project management.