MIT research computing — together we are stronger

We are excited to announce a strategic collaboration, and the signing of a formal memorandum of understanding between the OpenMind project and the Office of Research Computing and Data, (ORCD).

Over the last few months, McGovern Institute for Brain Research and ORCD leadership have been working together to bring additional economies of scale and to support and enhance the research computing experience for our MIT brain science research communities. 

OpenMind and ORCD have signed a novel memorandum of understanding to transfer the significant OpenMind high performance computing (HPC) assets and resources to ORCD management, which includes over 3,500 CPU, more than 3 petabytes of storage, and over 350 GPGPU devices.

These HPC systems will be supported by ORCD systems and support staff, which will additionally allow for the transfer of existing expert research software engineering and facilitation staff to join ORCD.  This will further extend the capabilities of the new MIT wide research computing consulting team in ORCD to further partner with scientists across the institute.

Under this agreement, OpenMind will continue to operate at the same high standard that has been set and achieved over many years by significant leadership efforts and investments from Dr. Satra Ghosh and Prof. Josh McDermott and their teams.  The overarching goal of ORCD has always been to “do no harm”, accordingly systems will be slowly integrated over a period of at least six months.  OpenMind is a sophisticated and critically important computational platform, great care will be taken in concert with OpenMind and ORCD leadership to enhance services slowly and methodically and maintaining availability and capability. 

Transitioning OpenMind over to ORCD provides benefits to the neuroscience community in the short and MIT in the longer term. With the increasing dependence on computing in all aspects of modern science and engineering, OpenMind joins a set of resources at MIT to make computing uniformly accessible to the community. Addressing the growth of datasets, scale of AI/ML models and analysis workflows, and collaborative work has been some of the drivers in the design and implementation of OpenMind. This design process will serve as a foundation of continuing to expand access to resources at MIT.

This agreement aligns fully with the mission of ORCD and the funding provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research to bring up the level of research computing support available across all of MIT for everyone.  ORCD achieves this through tightly coupled systems integration, and a coordinated and transparent shared computing and services model. 

By pooling resources and avoiding duplication of efforts, ORCD engineers implement advanced automation, orchestration, idle resource sharing, unified ticket and request queues along with enterprise level observability to manage and support large numbers of systems, at scale with minimal staff providing maximum levels of support per research dollar. 

The ORCD model simplifies the research computing environment at MIT, allowing ORCD to effectively do more with less.  As research computing becomes ever more central across all of MIT, it is vital that MIT continue to invest and focus on methods to leverage the very best of our talented staff and scientists. As a community, we should focus all of our resources on supporting and enabling productive research, not repairing unique artisanal pieces of hardware and bespoke custom computer systems and networks.

Through the solid partnership with IS&T (specifically the networking and security teams), ORCD are able to deliver a more seamless, secure and frictionless HPC service for our research communities by bringing in the right networks to the right systems, at the right time.

The signing of this memorandum could not come at a better time as neuroscience researchers are currently investing heavily in advanced, high value AI/ML devices.  These new systems, storage and services will be acquired, installed and managed through the existing strong vendor and operational partnerships already in place at ORCD. 

We also note that modern multi kilowatt computing devices result in significant energy costs to the institute and the planet to provide for adequate power and cooling.  This conundrum is elegantly solved by continuing to operate both current, and future ORCD integrated OpenMind purchased systems out of our world-class net zero carbon facility at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC).

If you also find yourself looking for opportunities to pool resources, provide a great experience for your researchers and gain access to more shared compute, or if you have run out of power and resources, please feel free to reach out to ORCD executive director James Cuff for an initial chat, and to see what might be possible.