A new computer has seized the title as the fastest and most powerful computer ever at Iowa State.

"Cyence," the new supercomputer, can be found in the basement of Durham Hall and is capable of making 183.043 trillion calculations per second and has a total memory of 38.4 trillion bytes.

One second of calculations that Cyence performs would take a human 5 million to 6 million years to complete.

The computer is used to calculate large computations and to design and generate models to solve problems. It is being largely used by ISU researchers and graduate students.

“The larger amount of computing power gives you better performance and makes the models you are using more realistic,” said James Davis, vice provost for the Information Technology Services.

Davis used the example of a weather modeling to explain the type of models that could be performed with Cyence. Different types of storms can be created using the supercomputer, which allows the researcher to see inside the storm as a more detailed model.

Cyence is also faster than the other high performance computers the university has used in the past. Research can be sped up since the parameters of a model can be changed with greater ease and multiple results can be generated quicker. Also multiple research groups can run models on the computer at the same time instead of just one group which speeds up research.

“This is very important to the research enterprise to have this [Cyence] to carry out large scale research models,” Davis said. “This really shortens the time to discovery.”

The process to bring Cyence to Iowa State began in 2010 with Arun Somani, associate dean for electrical and computer engineering, and his team who then wrote a proposal to the National Science Foundation in 2011. The foundation found Somani’s proposal compelling, and it decided that it was necessary to fund the computer. The computer was installed in Durham at the end of June 2013.

The foundation gave $1.8 million for the project, with Iowa State funding another $800,000. Funding came from the colleges of Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, and vice president of research and economic development office.

“This was a joint venture between the three colleges, which was very unique because you do not see this type of partnership at most universities,” said Somani.

Somani stated that even though Cyence is the most powerful computer to ever exist at Iowa State, it would not crack the top 500 list of most powerful computers in the United States.

Both Davis and Somani see Cyence as a source of pride for ISU students due to the research findings that will come from the machine.

“It applies to them [students] because it speaks to the research on campus and we take pride in our findings as a whole,” Davis said. “This machine will be solving problems that affect all of our lives.”

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