NIU Today – NIU gets a super boost in high-performance computing

The NIU Center for Research Computing and Data (CRCD) is commissioning a new $1.2 million high-performance computing (HPC) facility, known as METIS.

We want to equip our faculty with the sophisticated tools they need to stay at the forefront of research and scholarship in their respective fields, said Gerald C. Blazey, NIU vice president for research and innovation partnerships. Compared to its predecessor, METIS increases NIU HPC capacity by an order of magnitude.

Professor Bela Erdelyi (in the blue shirt), director of the CRCD, and Sergey Uzunyan, director of science and engineering of the CRCD.

For the techies among us, METIS will increase CPU capacity of CRCDs from 1.2 teraflops to 16.4 teraflops and GPU capacity from 21.4 teraflops to 292 teraflops. With a capacity of 3 X 1014 mathematical calculations per second and an ultra-fast communication network, it will be able to handle huge data sets and complex computational investigations.

The METIS computing facility, which replaces the 10-year-old Gaea hybrid computing cluster, was purchased with university funds.

Investing in such a facility makes sense for our research community, said Bela Erdelyi, NIU physics professor, director of the CRCD, who aims to serve as a team of experts to broadly support the diverse computing and data needs of research in the campus.

These high-performance systems allow people to do research they otherwise couldn’t or get results much faster, and that’s a win-win for everyone, Erdelyi said. The previous system was a decade old and the hardware evolves so fast that a new one was needed. NIU scientists are now tackling many problems that are beyond Gaea’s capabilities.

Erdelyi expects METIS to start engaging users by the end of the month. Use of the facility is free for NIU faculty.

In the past, the most common users of the CRCD came from STEM fields. Gaea has supported nearly 100 academic and research projects, including weather and climate modeling, advanced accelerator topics, high-content biological image analysis, simulations of charged particle beam dynamics, and the application of computational materials science in materials design and in the physical/mechanical behavior of nanomaterials and nanostructures.

Erdelyi and senior researcher Sergey Uzunyan, director of science and engineering at the CRCD, hope to expand the use of METIS into more fields, from the humanities to economics.

High-performance computing could be used, for example, for AI projects involving music, painting and writing; or even to build models of human consciousness. The new modern processor cluster can perform large-scale financial forecasting or GPU-hungry art projects like visualizations of historical battlefields and back-in-time travel on maps.

With the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, the demand for high-performance computing resources has never been greater, Erdelyi said. CRCD resources can help significantly reduce the time and cost associated with performing complex and resource-intensive simulations, modeling tasks, and data analysis. With the ability to process large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, we can accelerate our research, publish impactful articles, and attract the best talent to our institution.

The system will benefit projects that require rapid parallel analysis of large volumes of data, Uzunyan adds. Along with traditional STEM projects, the system can help conduct research on speech and vision recognition, medicine, psychology, finance, climate, environmental issues, and insurance.

Both Erdelyi and Uzunyan are available to talk to professors about using METIS for their research.

People may be unsure of how to use high-performance computing, Erdelyi said. My proposal to them would be to invite Sergey or me to meet with your research group, department or university so that you can have a better understanding of our new system and how you might be able to apply it to your research.

Faculty interested in learning more can contact Bela Erdelyi at or Sergey Uzunyan at

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