About SDSC

As an Organized Research Unit of the University of California, San Diego, the San Diego Supercomputer Center is considered a leader in advanced computation and all aspects of “Big Data”, which includes data integration and storage, performance modeling, data mining and predictive analytics, software development, and more. SDSC provides resources, services, and expertise to the national research community including academia, industry, and government. SDSC supports hundreds of multidisciplinary programs spanning a wide variety of domains, from astrophysics and bioinformatics to environmental sciences and health IT.

With its two newest supercomputers, a data-intensive system called Gordon and Comet, a petascale system entering production in 2015, SDSC is a partner in XSEDE (eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment), a National Science Foundation (NSF) program that comprises the most advanced collection of integrated digital resources and services in the world. SDSC has also pioneered advances in data storage and a cloud computing, and now houses several “centers of excellence” in the areas of large-scale data management, predictive analytics, health IT services, workflow automation, and Internet analysis. 

SDSC was founded in 1985 with a $170 million grant from the NSF Supercomputer Centers program. From 1997 to 2004, SDSC extended its leadership in computational science and engineering to form the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), teaming with approximately 40 university partners around the country.

A broad community of scientists, engineers, students, commercial partners, museums, and other facilities work with SDSC to develop cyberinfrastructure-enabled applications to help manage their extreme data needs. Projects run the gamut from creating astrophysics visualization for the American Museum of Natural History, to supporting more than 286,000 visitors per month from about 190 countries to the Protein Data Bank, or performing large-scale, award-winning simulations of the origin of the universe or how a major earthquake would affect densely populated areas such as southern California.

A Pioneer in Flash-based Supercomputing

In early 2012 SDSC deployed Gordon as one of the 50 fastest supercomputers in the world, and the first high-performance computing (HPC) system to use massive amounts of flash-based memory. Gordon contains 300 trillion bytes of flash-based storage Gordon has 300 trillion bytes of flash memory and 64 I/O nodes, making it ideal for researchers who need to sift through tremendous amounts of data. In effect, Gordon is designed to do for scientific research what Google does for web searches.

Petascale Power

Comet, SDSC’s new petascale supercomputer, enters service in 2015 with the mission of transforming advanced scientific computing by expanding access and capacity among traditional as well as non-traditional research domains. Comet is capable of an overall peak performance of two petaflops, or two quadrillion operations per second. The system was specifically designed to provide a solution for emerging research requirements often referred to as the ‘long tail’ of science, which describes the idea that the  large number of modest-sized computationally-based research projects still represents, in aggregate, a tremendous amount of research and resulting scientific impact and advance.


SDSC is led by Dr. Michael L. Norman, who was named SDSC interim director in June 2009 and appointed to the position of director in September 2010. Norman is a distinguished professor of physics at UC San Diego and a globally recognized astrophysicist. As a leader in using advanced computational methods to explore the universe and its beginnings, Norman directed the Laboratory for Computational Astrophysics, a collaborative effort between UC San Diego and SDSC.