Monday, November 2, 2009

Green High Performance Computing: Ping, Power and Pipe

On October 21 I was at our National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education annual conference in Washington, DC. Green was the theme of of this year's conference with sessions on everything from bio-fuels, wind power, photovoltaics, computer virtualization and storage. Back at home there was another green event happening in Holyoke, MA that I had to miss. Governor Deval Patrick came out to Holyoke Community College to discuss his continued support and announce the go ahead for the planned construction of the regions first high performance computer center in a new "innovation" district located in Holyoke, MA. Partners in the project include Cisco, EMC (both companies also in attendance at our NSF conference in Washington, DC), MIT, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts.

If you are not from Massachusetts maybe you haven't heard of Holyoke. If you are from the area you probably think of Holyoke as an old New England mill town. What you may not know is 160 years ago Holyoke was the first planned industrial city in America. Here's a brief historical overview summarized from the city website:
  • In 1847, taking advantage of the broad plain and the 57 foot drop in the Connecticut River at South Hadley Falls, work began on a planned industrial City. Construction of Holyoke's first wooden dam began in 1847 under the Hadley Falls Company.
  • As Holyoke matured, it began to diversify industrially. Four and a half miles of canals were dug by pick and shovel through the lower wards, and all types of products were manufactured along their banks.
  • Textiles were the first major product of the City, quickly followed by paper. Within 30 years, Holyoke would become known as the "Paper City of the World".
  • From its highs of the 1920's industry showed a gradual decline in overall employment. Many labor and energy intensive firms followed the national pattern, and moved to the South and West, to be nearer raw materials and cheaper labor. The remaining industries took advantage of Holyoke's unique resources, especially her highly skilled labor force and plentiful water for power and process uses.
  • Although many of the paper mills left, many specialty paper producers have remained.
Manufacturing, textiles, speciality paper,,,,, what does that have to do with a green high performance computing center? A recent post at referred the attraction to Holyoke as ping, power and pipe - the city has a high-speed network in place with fiber connections to major research universities, low cost water-power generated electricity and the required cooling infrastructure.

There is still considerable work to be done with the next step over the next couple of months an executed purchase and sale agreement. According to the piece, 80 different sites in the Holyoke canal district are being considered for the center.

I live across the Connecticut River in South Hadley and drive through the canal district every day back and forth to work at Springfield Technical Community College. The canals and old buildings are beautiful and I love the ride - I'm looking forward to the watching the center, innovation district and area transition and grow.

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