Massachusetts Computing Center Set To Start Operating

Nov 16, 2012

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick headed a list of hundreds of government, academic and business leaders who gathered in Holyoke Friday to mark the completion of an energy efficient high performance computing center.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

Some of the cabinets that will house computers in the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke
Credit WAMC

 Governor Patrick said the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center holds great scientific and economic promise, and he praised the partnership of government, academia and business that built the $165 million dollar center.

Scientists predict the center will be able to do remarkable things because of its capacity to store huge amounts of data, perform fast complex computations and transmit information over a large broadband network.  Government officials say it will help spread the state’s renowned innovation economy to western Massachusetts.

The center has nearly an acre of space to house up to 20,000 computers, each three to four times more powerful than a typical home pc.  John Goodhue, the executive director of the center, said the computers will be used for  university research in such areas as developing new  medicine, improving weather forecasting, and the invention of new materials.

Data center are notorious energy hogs. The one in Holyoke uses enough megawatts to light up three medium sized New England towns. But 70 percent of its electricity comes from renewable sources, most of that hydropower.  Also, Goodhue says there is a sophisticated system of water loops that will be used to cool the computers to reduce energy use.

The computing center was built by a partnership  of five universities, Harvard, M-I-T, Northeastern, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts,  high tech companies EMC and Cisco Systems and the state.  UMass President Robert Caret said it’s the unique cooperation that makes the center the first of its kind in the country.

Holyoke, an impoverished old mill city, was chosen as the location of the center because of the availability of inexpensive hydropower and a nearby fiberoptic network..  Mayor Alex Morse believes the computing center will be a catalyst for economic development in the city’s distressed downtown

The computing center itself will have relatively few employees, as most of the computing work will done remotely.  The three year construction produced about 400 jobs, according to state officials.