rendered image of servers with TIDE logo
Story Technology

New Computing Center Expands CSU Research Capabilities

Alex Beall

​Updated March 20, 2024

The Technology Infrastructure for Data Exploration (TIDE) project at SDSU will give CSU researchers access to new high-performance data processing capabilities.

rendered image of servers with TIDE logo

​Image rendered with superimposed TIDE logo by Dell Technologies and San Diego State University


​Funded by a $991,749 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Technology Infrastructure for Data Exploration (TIDE) project will establish a new computing core facility at San Diego State that will allow researchers throughout the CSU to conduct high-performance computing processes, expanding their ability to perform high-level research.

“This is the first computational core in the CSU, a shared service where SDSU is hosting hardware that will benefit faculty across our system​," says Jerry Sheehan, TIDE's principal investigator, as well as an SDSU adjunct professor and former chief information officer. “Increasingly as you have more data-intensive courses, you have more students who are interested in being able to use the same sort of tools that someone in the UC system is going to get access to."

The computing center will first be available for partners at Cal Poly Humboldt, Cal State San Bernardino, San Diego State and Stanislaus State, who are conducting research that requires advanced computational infrastructure—such as identifying antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis strains, programming robots with more human reactions, digitally reconstructing archeological artifacts and developing models of water circulation.

CSU researchers will be able to connect remotely to the center to process their research data. By running on graphics processing units—rather than central processing units like many computers and networks—TIDE will allow researchers to process massive amounts of data in a much shorter amount of time. This is because graphics processing units utilize a unique technological architecture that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to process data more quickly.

Installation of the servers is expected to be complete by April 2024, and researchers from the initial partner institutions should have access May 2024. The center will eventually be available to all 23 campuses.

Such a resource will bolster students' academic and professional success by giving them more opportunities to engage in high-level research and use high-performance computing technology. It will also help attract and retain quality faculty who will now be able to conduct research at the same level as those at research-focused institutions. In fact, data has shown that faculty working at campuses with high-performance computing resources like TIDE tend to have more academic publications.

“Our proposal is based on putting the resource in the CSU to serve our faculty—as well as to increase awareness around and opportunities for our workforce of students to use these tools to make them competitive, not only academically, but also as they enter their professional careers or go on to more advanced degrees," Sheehan says.

Ed Clark, Chief Information Officer at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, says: "I’m excited about what the TIDE initiative means for the CSU. Certainly, it will benefit our current faculty members and attract new scholars working on computing-intensive research projects. But just as importantly, these resources will be used to teach our students critically needed skills that are in high demand across the country. This student aspect sets the project apart from other high-end research computing initiatives."

Significantly, TIDE is also addressing equity challenges. Through its Campus Cyberinfrastructure (CC*) program, the NSF has sought ways to expand access to campus-based resources and technology that will allow faculty and students to conduct high-level research. This has included investments in high-speed networks and data storage, but more recently NSF efforts have focused on computing capabilities and the creation of regional computing centers like TIDE that could be accessed by a collection of institutions. NSF has also targeted these efforts toward institutions serving historically underserved populations, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. The goal is to diversify the research field.

TIDE will help achieve this goal as it will make such technological resources available to the nation's largest system of public higher education, which is home to the most ethnically, economically and academically diverse student body in the United States. In addition, 21 CSUs are des​ignat​ed Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and the CSU provides more than half of all undergraduate degrees earned by California's Latinx, African American and Native American students combined—many of whom are first-generation and Pell-eligible.

“In order for science to be democratized, everyone has to have access—and the easiest way for that access to occur is for there to be resources that are broadly distributed with the right support infrastructure," Sheehan says. “Investing in the CSU is foundational to creating a level playing field for everyone to compute."

In March 2024, the TIDE Project received the 2024 Innovations in Networking Award for Equitable Access to Cyberinfrastructure from CENIC, a nonprofit that provides computing network services and resources to California educational institutions.

“Innovation arises by building upon the groundbreaking work of others. ​TIDE exemplifies this springboard approach to innovation by leveraging the CENIC network's robust foundation and our partners' computational expertise at the San Diego Supercomputer Center,” Sheehan said in a CENIC press release​. “We are honored to receive the CENIC Equitable Access award, recognizing our commitment to advancing technological infrastructure and promoting equitable access to cutting-edge research and educational opportunities.”

A separate $6.7 million NSF grant awarded in 2022 will allow SDSU and CSUSB, along with the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego, to train cyberinfrastructure professionals—both staff and graduate assistants—on this new technology. These professionals will then facilitate the CSU community's use of the resource.

“The learning curve on the engagement with TIDE is going to be high," Sheehan says. “But I think the most important thing for everyone inside the CSU to know is this is their resource, and our goal is to make it useful to them."

In addition,​ Dell Technologies is powering the project with Dell PowerEdge servers​, while the CSU Chancellor's Office has committed itself to sustaining this resource, should it prove successful.

Finally, TIDE will connect the CSU to the National Research Platform (NRP) led by the SDSC. This partnership of more than 50 institutions provides access to thousands of graphics processing units and central processing units that partners can use for data processing. Through this network, CSU researchers who have a data processing need larger than what TIDE can manage are able to leverage NRP's more extensive technological infrastructure.

“If you have a big job that is beyond the resource at San Diego State University, you could go out to this much larger national infrastructure [to process the research data]," Sheehan says. “One of the reasons that we refer to TIDE as infrastructure for data exploration is because we want to be an on-ramp to much larger resources."


Read the SDSU article for more information about the TIDE project.