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Supercomputer Butte-bound: New jobs expected
[November 19, 2008]

Supercomputer Butte-bound: New jobs expected

(Montana Standard, The (Butte) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 19--Locating a supercomputer in Butte is no longer just a proposal.

The state has purchased the computer, which is scheduled to be delivered on Dec. 27 to the Mining City. It's also expected to generate 137 jobs initially.

"It's coming, it's a done deal," said Phillip Curtis of the Montana Economic Revitalization and Development Institute, or MERDI.

MERDI also has signed a contract with the state to play host to the supercomputer at the Thornton Building, Broadway and Wyoming, in Uptown Butte, said MERDI director Jim Kambich.

The lease is with the Montana Information Technology Services Division, which owns the supercomputer, said Evan Barrett, Montana's chief business development officer.

The state bought the computer, which is slightly smaller than a standard refrigerator, from IBM for roughly $500,000, he said.

Barrett said IBM gave the state a "significant discount," as the computer is worth more than $2 million.

"That's part of their contribution" to the project, he said.

Butte's supercomputer will be the first in the region and will allow Montana businesses, students and other professionals to perform high-capacity computing while also tapping into other larger systems through an on-demand agreement with IBM, Barrett said.

"It's absolutely a step forward," he said. "We're in a highnperformance-computing desert if you will. This is going to be a little technological oasis." The system will begin as a 3.8 teraflop supercomputer and will be upgraded within the next three to five years to 20 teraflops, officials said.

Technicians with IBM will spend about two weeks setting up the computer in early January, and the machine is expected to be fully operational later that month, Kambich said.

"It's sort of exciting. We're getting there," Kambich said. "We want to keep pushing." While MERDI oversees everything from heating and cooling of the system to secure access to the Thornton Building, the newly formed non-profit Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centers, or RMSC, will work with customers, he said.

"They will be the broker of time on the machine," Kambich said.

The cost to use the computer will be based in part on the extent of computing and other factors such as time and privacy requirements, RMSC officials have said.

Jim Smitham, director of the Butte Local Development Corp., believes the supercomputer computer will help boost Butte's economy, with clients staying in local hotels, eating in restaurants and using the Bert Mooney Airport.

Barrett agreed, adding that the supercomputer will help advance all of Montana.

"It's an ideal situation for building new economic activity," he said. "This is stuff that needs to be done for the competitiveness of Montana." RMSC estimates the supercomputer will create 137 jobs in Uptown Butte and 250 statewide within the first three years of operations.

Reporter Justin Post may be reached at or by telephone, 496-5572.

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