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XSEDE's new cluster concept bolsters research, from big data to small campuses

US researchers now have better access to top computing resources, thanks to IU experts working with XSEDE

Scientists and researchers across the US now have faster and easier access to top computing resources, thanks to leadership provided by the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), an NSF-funded national cyberinfrastructure service. XSEDE partners Indiana University and Cornell University announced today the creation of its XSEDE Compatible Basic Cluster (XCBC) software suite, designed to help researchers ranging from big data scientists to people running small campus clusters.

XSEDE cyberinfrastructure consists of computing and data storage systems, advanced instruments and data repositories, visualization environments  and people – all linked by high-speed networks in support of the national research community. Within XSEDE, the "campus bridging" effort aims to facilitate use of local and national cyberinfrastructure in ways that are easy and useful to researchers and educators – a bridge from the campus to the regional, national and international levels. The XCBC is the latest effort from XSEDE's Campus Bridging team to help researchers and teachers access XSEDE's powerful resources and make use of XSEDE training materials on campuses across the US.

"XSEDE aims to enable new and innovative research within the US, and a key part of our strategy is to support the development of an effective and coordinated national cyberinfrastructure," said John Towns, XSEDE project director. "Together, campus bridging and the XCBC are a vital part of XSEDE's mission to support the national research community."

The XCBC software suite lets a local campus create a cluster with open source software tools that match the software of the most commonly used systems within XSEDE. That way, a command that a researcher might use on an XSEDE cluster works the same way on a local cluster. This means that educators can easily adapt XSEDE-developed training materials in their local teaching efforts. XCBC also includes software to aid data movement and integration with XSEDE, most particularly software for use on Globus Online, currently XSEDE's most widely used campus-bridging data movement tool.

"The XCBC concept, the software build and the distribution tools will make it easier for faculty members and IT experts across the US to adopt technology that is consistent with and enables interoperability with XSEDE," said Richard Knepper, manager of campus bridging and research infrastructure within IU Research Technologies.

IU staff members introduced the XCBC model at XSEDE's third annual conference in Atlanta, July 13-18, with the paper, "Methods For Creating XSEDE Compatible Clusters," presented by Jeremy Fischer, Richard Knepper, Matthew Standish, Craig Stewart, Resa Alvord, David Lifka, Barbara Hallock and Victor Hazelwood.

The XSEDE Compatible Basic Cluster concept is particularly focused on enabling researchers to easily move their data from local to national computing resources. Basic features of XCBC include:

  • A computational cluster build, based on open source tools, that operates in a similar way to a cluster one might find in XSEDE.
  • The same basic tool sets one might find on an XSEDE resource: C compilers, Fortran compilers, MPI libraries, etc., as well as common open source scientific applications like Bowtie, GROMACS, LAMMPS, FFTW, and more.
  • Data movement tools, including software to access Globus Online

Thanks to increased campus bridging funding from XSEDE, IU will soon have staff available to travel to campuses to help install the XCBC software. Interested researchers should contact


The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) is the most advanced, powerful, and robust collection of integrated advanced digital resources and services in the world. It is a single virtual system that scientists can use to interactively share computing resources, data, and expertise. XSEDE accelerates scientific discovery by enhancing the productivity of researchers, engineers, and scholars by deepening and extending the use of XSEDE's ecosystem of advanced digital services and by advancing and sustaining the XSEDE advanced digital infrastructure. XSEDE is a five-year, $121-million project and is supported by the National Science Foundation.