Funding Must Be Found To Keep Supercomputing System Open, UNCW Chancellor Says

The Daily Skinny:Even in tight budget, Leutze says ‘no question’ MCNC facility is needed. Also: Greensboro incubator growing; NC Info Highway funding secured; Secret Service checks wireless networks; and IBM unveils small but powerful PC

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Chancellor James Leutze of UNC-Wilmington is rallying to the cause of preserving the Supercomputing Center at MCNC.

Dave Rizzo, the chief executive officer at MCNC, has said in recent weeks that the center might have to be closed if the UNC System does not step forward to provide funds. Leutze said the universities have no choice.

“The Supercomputing Center is very, very complimentary to what we are trying to do in research and development,” said Leutze, who also chairs the Rural Internet Access Authority. “There’s really no question that we have to have it.”

The question is, will other members of the UNC system agree? All the schools are under tremendous budget pressure due to the state’s fiscal crisis. The General Assembly provides funds to the system to pay for networking as well as supercomputing resources. Those funds are then channeled to MCNC, which no longer receives any funding directly from the state.

A $5 million cut at the General Assembly last year forced MCNC to dip into its foundation reserves to underwrite the cost of the Supercomputing Center. But Rizzo said MCNC can’t afford to do so again this year.

As Leutze pointed out, the Supercomputing Center is essential not only for researchers but also for the proposed biogrid network. The grid is being designed to provide scientists with greater computing power to tackle genomic data as well as storage of the terabytes of data being generated by the unraveling of the human genome.

“If they shut it down, we have real problems,” Leutze said. “We have to find some way to fund it.

“No, we don’t have the funds right now,” he added in response to a question. “But when push comes to shove, the Supercomputing Center is essential.”

A boost for Greensboro incubator

The Nussbaum Center, a small-business incubator in Greensboro, is going to be expanding — with the help of the North Carolina Technological Development Authority.

Having secured a $100,000 loan from the TDA, the Nussbaum Center’s manager says he will not only expand space but also make some renovations. When completed, the complex will have 119 offices covering 72,000 square feet. The Center is located in a part of an old cotton fabric mill and is one of 25 incubators around the state that receive support from the TDA.

A victory for NC Information Highway

Supporters of the North Carolina Information Highway won what they feel is a substantial victory for the distance-learning and data network when the General Assembly moved its funding to “recurring” status.

In other words, the Highway funds are in the budget — this next year for $1.2 million — unless it is removed. For the past decade or so, Highway supporters had been forced to lobby to get funds.

Secret Services checks wireless networks

So what’s running on your network?

Around Washington DC, the Secret Service is trying to find out. Agents are out and about checking on the security of federal wireless networks, according to The Associated Press. One agent says security “has always been an afterthought.”

Concern about wireless network security came to a head recently when the White House’s cyber security proposal included a recommendation that some wireless networks be banned. But private sector pressure forced the removal from the proposed plan.

The Secret Service also monitored networks during the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and at the World Bank ahead of big protests recently.

IBM rolls out new, small PC

IBM introduced a smaller version of its NetVista PC last week. The S42 is touted for packing power in less physical space.

It is a mere 12.2 inches wide, is 13.6 inches deep and stands but 3.3 inches high, or as IBM says, “about the size of a collegiate dictionary”.

However, IBM insists that the S42 doesn’t lack power. It comes with an Intel Pentium 4 processor. Integrated Ethernet, has four USB ports in the front and two more in the back, and packs a hard drive up to 40 GB.

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.