Powered Up: Apollo Cluster gives UAPB a 'supercomputer'

It’s not as fast as a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, but the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Apollo Cluster is most certainly a supercomputer.

“It’s pretty amazing,” UAPB Coordinator of Computer Sciences Jessie Walker said. “If you took all the regular computers in Pine Bluff and put them together, they would have probably only half the power of this one machine.

“It’s actually beyond basic imagination,” Walker added.

The cluster is — just as the word implies — a merged network.

UAPB recently became Arkansas’ first historically black university and one of just 10 historically black institutions nationally to be able to boast of a supercomputer on campus. Supercomputers can also be found within the state at the University of Arkansas’ Fayetteville and Little Rock campuses and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

The cluster and accompanying visualization instrumentation that can quickly magnify images to the power of thousands literally stretch previously accepted bounds of research, education and training.

The UAPB Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences’ Data Analytics Research/CyberSecurity group-managed $250,000 supercomputer — funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s University Research Instrumentation Program — can store and process greatly expanded data applicable to various sciences and disciplines. UAPB’s departments of Agriculture, Biology, and Chemistry and Physics are collaborators in the supercomputer applications.

Naturally, the contraption’s analysis can produce enhanced modeling, which can lead to new discoveries in unlimited fields. Not surprisingly, the supercomputer functions at a rapid pace.

Walker said the device is so “high-performance” that challenges that might require “days of work” on a typical computer can be satisfied “in a couple of minutes to an hour.” The supercomputer is projected to be “state-of-the-art” for up to five years.

The supercomputer’s value, Walker said, is augmented by its sharing with the City of Pine Bluff.

City Information Technology Director Wes O’Donohue, who was unavailable for comment, is utilizing the program for devising a mapping effort.

“Computer science certainly isn’t within my realm of expertise,” Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said, “but I know that we live in a world where computerization grows even more critical on a daily basis. From what I understand, UAPB’s supercomputer gives the institution and city unique potential for positive development, influence and leadership.

“I don’t think it’s possible to evaluate the true worth of the supercomputer and what it can mean to the future of our university and city,” the mayor said. “I’ll defer to Mr. Walker’s assessment — it’s pretty amazing.”