July 31, 2008

University’s Blue Fern $660,000 in the Red

Canterbury University's super- computer ran at a $660,000 loss in its first year but was still a sound investment, acting Vice- Chancellor Ian Town says.

University council members voted to buy an IBM Blue Gene super- computer in July last year at a cost of more than $5 million over a five-year lease-to-own deal.

Their decision was based on a business case from consulting firm Deloitte, which predicted the computer, dubbed Blue Fern, would bring in external revenue of $852,000 during the first financial year.

Figures presented to council members yesterday showed revenue was $203,200. Blue Fern was expected to have a net profit of about $250,000 by last month but had a net loss of about $660,000.

Town said the business case had been "optimistic".

It had taken longer than expected to secure commercial clients for Blue Fern's services, he said. "Our job is now to make sure some of those income streams are able to be achieved."

The university was developing a relationship with two Australian universities and hoped to gain revenue from them before the end of the year, he said.

It was also working on a proposal for a government investment to provide services to other New Zealand institutions and researchers.

Canterbury is one of just 25 universities worldwide with a Blue Gene super-computer, which can carry out nine billion calculations in one second.

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