Faculty Resources

Auburn University's High Performance Community Computing Cluster (HPCCC)

Auburn University’s HPCCC aka the Hopper allows faculty across the university to run analyses of very large data sets and other large and complex computing jobs without bogging down local office or research lab computers.

The College of Liberal Arts is participating in this project, giving all CLA faculty members access to this computing resource as needed.

How does it work? 

The Hopper Cluster consists of 2400 cores and 15tb ram, (full specifications:  https://hpcportal.auburn.edu/hpc/2016_cluster.php ); the College of Liberal Arts’ share is 5 standard nodes which adds up to 50 of these cores.  In order to access the cluster, you need to request an account that, for our college, is approved by the IT Manager of the college.  Once your account is created, you can log on and start getting familiar with the environment – and yes, it will look very different from what you are used to on your office computer.

https://hpcportal.auburn.edu/hpc/index.php is the portal to Auburn University’s High Performance and Parallel Computing program

https://wp.auburn.edu/hpc/ is its blog

Use https://hpcportal.auburn.edu/hpc/forms/2016/hopper/access.php to request an account – the request will go to the CLA approver, right now the IT Manager of the college, so she may be in touch with you to check what you are planning on doing.

How could it be important to your research? 

In the most basic way, this computer can help you speed up your analysis of very large data sets.  If you are in Economics, Political Science, Psychology, or Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, having such large data sets may be familiar to you – and you are then also familiar with the analysis of such data taking a long time, possibly hours and longer.  The HPCCC can help speed up this analysis considerably, especially if you are planning on multiple iterations of analysis.  If you are in other departments, we may

How did the HOPPER get its name?

Grace Hopper (1906-1992) is probably best known for her work on COBOL, a computing language that can be commonly used and is still the most used business language in computing.  While she was teaching Mathematics at Vassar, she had her students write essays explaining a common mathematical problem to foster understanding and communication skills.  One of her skills was to translate scientific problems into math formulae, into English, and finally into code. 

In 1942, the U.S. military hired women mathematicians to help with code breaking and code writing.  Hopper joined the Navy with hopes of doing such work but instead ended up at Harvard, programming one of the first computers, the Mark I computer and working with Howard Aiken.  She is not the only woman during this time focusing on programming and the unknown concept of software – men, at this point, considered programming or computing trivial and were happier working with hardware only.  Not until years later did it become clear that software carries the real power to computing through its flexibility.  Her book about the Mark I.  And yes, she may have been involved in coining the term bug and debugging after the cause of one set of problems, a moth, was found in the Mark II.

She developed the concept of sub routines – and, interestingly enough, the women working at the ENIAC at the same time did the same thing:  The idea that chunks of programs can be reused multiple times to make programming more efficient and more elegant is still used in programming today.

In 1952, she also developed the world’s first compiler, A-0, that translated mathematical symbolic code into machine language – a forerunner of the later COBOL compiler.  Her emphasis on collaboration and communication led to the concept (but not the term) of open-source as she sent her programming ideas to friends and colleagues for feedback.

One of her many distinctions is that she was the oldest-serving Navy officer at her retirement, at the final rank of Rear Admiral, as she had been previously pulled out of retirement.  Throughout her life, her emphasis remained on education and on giving everyone encouragement to try out new ideas in the computing and programming world.  Watch Grace Hopper explain nanoseconds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEpsKnWZrJ8

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

Isaacson, Walter.  The Innovators:  How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014.

 

Last Updated: May 11, 2016