Computing Infrastructure Information

Columbia University Department of Computer Science

The departmental computing infrastructure consists of a data center for computational, storage and VoIP services. Additionally, a Linux compute cluster with 8 servers, each with 2 Xeon E5-2620@2.40GHz processors (12 core) with 128 GB of RAM, and a number of computing facilities for individual research labs. The data center houses more than 200 TB of network appliance file servers, a compute cluster consisting of 30 servers, each with 2 Nehalem processors, 8 cores and 24 GB memory. There is also a VMWare service consisting of 10 servers with a total capacity of approximately 500 VMware instances. Other computing facilities include a VoIP telephone system hosted by MITEL, a load-balanced departmental web cluster with 6 enterprise class servers, a backup servers with 40 TB capacity, along with supporting servers that provide print services, LDAP, DHCP, DNS, and software distributions to the department. The data center is internally connected via Gigabit Ethernet and accesses the Internet via the campus fiber network. The University provides 802.11ac wireless coverage for the department.

Columbia University Information Technology maintains Columbia’s commodity Internet connections that include 20 Gbps via Cogent and 10 Gbps via CenturyLink. Columbia’s research and education network connections include a NYSERNet NYC and statewide regional optical network (”dark fiber”), a 10 Gbps connection to NYSERNet’s IP network and from there to Internet2 and ESnet.

The research infrastructure has approximately 500 systems, with servers from vendors including Dell, HP, and Silicon Mechanics and workstations from Apple, Dell, HP, and others.  Many systems include Nvidia GPU for accelerated computation.

The labs for research in image processing, vision, graphics, and robotics, including the Columbia Robotics Laboratory (Professor Peter K. Allen, Director), are housed in the Schapiro CEPSR building, where it has approximately 1000 square feet of space. Facilities include Baxter Research Robot, PR2 mobile robot manipulator, Fetch mobile manipulator, Staubli RX-60L Robot arm, Kinova MICO arm, custom built overhead XYZ gantry robot, Toshiba FMA manipulator, Barrett Technology robotic hand, 2 RWI Pioneer mobile robots, 1 Evolution ER-1 robot, 1 RWI ATRV-2 mobile robot with RTK GPS, Leica HDS -500 and HDS-3000 100 meter range scanners, real-time Imaging boards, multiple high resolution color video and still cameras, 12 graphics workstations, numerous PCs, air compressor, and a variety of special purpose pieces of equipment such as interfaces, machining tools and lights.

Technical Support

The research facilities are staffed by professional systems engineers who are responsible for operating system and network support, hardware and software maintenance, and troubleshooting. These staff members allow individual researchers to avoid spending time on hardware and software administration and troubleshooting.

User Fees

The Department of Computer Science charges each researcher a prorated fee of $2,400 per year for use of the computing facilities in the department. This includes use of all servers, cluster computers, storage, backups, network connections, technical consulting and troubleshooting. All faculty, GRA’s, and post-doctoral researchers are charged this fee. The computer user fee funds the operation and equipment of the departmental computing infrastructure, and is charged in accordance with Columbia University Controller Agreement #100988 from Feb. 24, 2006.

The Department of Computer Science, established at Columbia in July 1979, works both in experimental (comprising artificial intelligence, machine architecture, computer networking, graphics, databases, distributed systems, and software systems) and in theoretical computer science (algorithms and computational complexity). This research work, supported by approximately $18 million a year, requires a computing infrastructure within the department to manage and provide shared computing and telecommunications services, full and incremental recoveries, public and commercial software licenses for programming and engineering tools, and management of the complex and varied networking for each research group. The responsibility for providing these facilities falls entirely on the department. Collecting user fees allows the department to offer high-quality facilities and services at a  price lower than that which would be required if each research unit procured services individually using consultants. The Computing Research Facilities (CRF) team is comprised of 6 full time IT professionals.