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University of Oklahoma Taps into Academic Cloud for Astronomy Research

More than 250 colleges and universities have access to the IBM Power Systems Academic Cloud, a free resource available to faculty members through the IBM Power Systems Academic Initiative (PSAI). One avid user of the cloud is Professor Eddie Baron at the University of Oklahoma.

Baron is a George Lynn Research Professor, the highest research honor that a faculty member can receive from the university. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Baron is also leading research that seeks to turn the spectroscopic observations of astrophysical objects, stars, exoplanets, supernovae, kilonovae, into a physical understanding of the physical conditions (i.e., densities, temperatures, compositions, and velocities). With this physical understanding, Baron hopes to learn how these objects formed (or exploded), what elements they made, how energetic they were and what the progenitor systems were at the time of creation.

"My research involves solving the radiative transfer equation in phase space…that is, real space and momentum space," Baron says. "This equation is very difficult to solve numerically and involves numerical complications not found in other physics problems."

To assist Baron with his research, the Power Systems Academic Cloud team delivered a Red Hat 7.3 Enterprise server with XL C/C++, XL FORTRAN, Python, JAVA, PERL, PHP, R and additional open source languages. The system also included IBM DB2 database as well as Postgre and Maria open source databases.

"IBM has been the most consistent collaborator in the academic and computing space," Baron says. "They have provided us with resources from hardware to software to training."

Baron's relationship with IBM began in 1995, when he received a Shared University Research (SUR) grant from the company. This grant allowed his team to obtain their own SP2 (RISC System 6000 — Scalable Power Parallel System) in 1996, which enabled them to get a jump-start on understanding how to code in a parallel environment. Since then, Baron has taken advantage of the many resources offered at no charge through the PSAI, including the academic cloud, software and the job board.

"I refer my students to the PSAI courses and the job board, and I have made great use of the software available to academic initiative members," Baron says. "I have had a very productive relationship with IBM throughout my 28 years at the University of Oklahoma."