In 1997, Trinity College Dublin received a donation of IR £750,000 (approx €950,000) to support a new High Performance Computing initiative. IR£400,000 (approx €500,000) of this money was used as a contribution towards the cost of a parallel computer purchased jointly with Queen’s University, Belfast. This computer, an IBM SP2 was the first supercomputer in Ireland. The remaining IR£350,000 (approx €444,000) was used as a contribution towards the cost of an associated research programme.
The investment provided by the gift has seeded an extraordinary development of Computational Science in Trinity College since 1997. At its most direct, over 30 staff are now involved in computational based research, with many more peripherally involved. Over 150 students have been trained since 1997, and considerable infrastructural development in many departments has been made possible.
What originally started as the strategic initiative in high performance computing developed through four distinct phases:
In the first (start-up) phase computer equipment was purchased by means of the donation. EU funding was used to established a centre in Trinity College to study the potential of HPC for business and industry in Ireland and across Europe.
In the second phase the Trinity Centre for High Performance Computing was established as a unit in Trinity to provide support and management for the development of high performance computing in College. The M.Sc. in High Performance Computing was also established in the School of Maths. In this phase, the major research and training developments occurred in the physical science departments.
In the third phase an expansion program was pursued to build on the strong core of expertise developed within the Centre and in the physical science departments to increase research and training activates particularly within the biological sciences and computer science. This included the completion of the INS building (now the Lloyd Institute) with over 800m2 space for computational scientists, the replacement of the original computer equipment purchased by the donation with the IITAC supercomputer, and the purchase of Ireland's first 3D visualization facility.
In the fourth phase HPC are seeking to expand into non traditional computational science areas and to cement the centres position as a central unit within Trinity. The centre will also be providing national services to all researchers in Ireland as part of the e-Inis project.
The centre has now become part of IT Services within Trinity College, and has been renamed Research IT.