Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), Purdue University\u2019s central IT organization, has led a multi-year, multinational supercomputing partnership in Medell\u00edn, Colombia. This academic collaboration, in concert with Medell\u00edn\u2019s Universidad EAFIT, has accelerated "speed to science" in numerous ways, CIO Gerry McCartney says.\nThe move represented a calculated risk that provided EAFIT with massive computing capacity, as well as increased interest from global researchers and private enterprise. It allowed Purdue\u2019s ITaP, in turn, to expand its focus and problem-solving abilities across continental boundaries. And, to this day, the campuses\u2019 partnership provides a dispatch from the academic frontiers of digital transformation, reflecting the need to innovate, the criticality of partnerships and the empirical benefits of testing the untried.\u00a0\nEAFIT\u2019s \u2018irresponsible decision\u2019 towards digital transformation\nPurdue University is renowned in the supercomputing arena.\n\u201cITaP has built and operated nine high-performance computing systems for faculty researchers in as many years, most rated among the world\u2019s \u2018TOP500\u2019 supercomputers,\u201d McCartney shares.\n Purdue University \nGerry McCartney, CIO, Purdue University\n\n\u201cWe did a lot of research when deciding where to sell our hardware and help establish a computing center,\u201d he continues. \u201cWe needed a university with the capacity to build and support a high-performance computing (HPC) center. When EAFIT approached us, we assessed their willingness to allocate funding, facilities and people to the project, an endeavor they had little to no familiarity with.\u201d\nUniversidad EAFIT, a prestigious private campus of some 12,000 students in Medell\u00edn, fit the bill. Founded in 1960, EAFIT\u2019s Spanish motto Inspira, Crea, Transforma (Inspire, Create, Transform) is reflective of its own academic aspirations towards the massive time savings and research applications of HPC. EAFIT\u2019s move was a calculated gamble, but in its aftermath Rector Juan Luis\u00a0Mej\u00eda Arango said it was the best "irresponsible" decision he ever made.\nIn 2012, McCartney and ITaP agreed to sell EAFIT components from its retiring Steele cluster and to assist the Colombian university in implementing Purdue\u2019s Community Cluster Program \u201ccondo\u201d model for providing high-performance computing resources. In the Purdue model, HPC systems are run centrally rather than by individual researchers and labs, and they are used by a variety of faculty and other staff. The model, McCartney says, offers researchers access to a larger, more powerful system than any of them could afford individually through economies of scale.\nBuilt on the Steele cluster\u2019s still-powerful hardware foundations, Apolo was named for the Greek god Apollo, associated with truth and the sun, as well as NASA\u2019s Apollo 11 mission, led by Commander Neil A. Armstrong, Purdue class of 1955.\n\u201cSelling a supercomputer to a Colombian university that had never owned one sounded like a potentially disastrous deal,\u201d McCartney acknowledges. \u201cThe machine could have easily languished in storage, souring the potential for any future arrangements. Anybody can buy a machine, but getting people to run it and getting faculty from every discipline to want to use it, that\u2019s what we wanted to impart.\u201d\nWhat kept ITaP motivated, McCartney explains, was its commitment to a simple yet enduring principle: Put people first. He felt enormous confidence in ITaP\u2019s ability to get things done and to partner effectively with a new player on the global supercomputing scene. And his frequent communication with Rector Juan Luis Mej\u00eda Arango helped expedite further exciting collaborations.\nStretching the IT organization through strategic partnership\n\u201cPurdue research computing staff members traveled to Colombia to help train and to work with EAFIT colleagues, and EAFIT students participated in Purdue\u2019s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow (SURF) program, working with a variety of supercomputing experts at Purdue,\u201d McCartney says. \u201cEAFIT and Purdue even sent joint teams to student supercomputing competitions in New Orleans and Frankfurt, Germany. Some of the Colombian students on the teams have become key staff members at [EAFIT\u2019s] Apolo center, which, in turn, is training the next generation of Colombia\u2019s high-performance computing experts.\u201d\nITaP staff were compelled to improvise to a degree, but the returns on their efforts were evident almost immediately. Purdue HPC analyst Stephen Lien Harrell, for example, traveled to Medell\u00edn to assist the Apolo staff, which in its early days was composed mostly of students. The training program he developed, covering such topics as cluster building and science codes, was repurposed for Purdue\u2019s own educational curriculum\u2014and since 2014 has been employed by the Linux Clusters Institute (LCI).\n\u201cAs much as they learned from us about running a scientific computing center, we learned from them in their ingenuity at solving problems,\u201d McCartney says. \u201cFor example, what do you do when your cooling equipment malfunctions and there\u2019s not one heating and cooling service provider in the area? Well, you call your most distinguished air flow engineering professor to assist, of course.\u201d\nSince 2012, EAFIT has realized the promised of HPC in numerous ways. The Medell\u00edn Apolo center, built from the ground up by two committed international teams, has flourished\u2014both in terms of team capacity and research scope.\nResearch enabled by Apolo has ranged from earthquake science and a groundbreaking examination of the tropical disease\u00a0Leishmaniasis\u00a0to the most \u2018green\u2019 way of cement processing and quantum mechanics.\n\u201cResearch enabled by Apolo has ranged from earthquake science and a groundbreaking examination of the tropical disease Leishmaniasis to the most \u2018green\u2019 way of cement processing and quantum mechanics, with the supercomputer speeding EAFIT researchers\u2019 time to science, just as Purdue\u2019s community clusters do,\u201d McCartney reports. \u201cIn 2016, EAFIT retired the original nodes they bought and purchased their own supercomputing nodes. A little later this year, we\u2019ll sell them another batch of nodes from another recently retired Purdue cluster, Carter.\u201d\nAdditionally, the dedicated EAFIT team has blossomed from six members in 2012 to 16 full-time research computing professionals, professors and part-time students today. In 2015, Apolo helped 69 researchers from EAFIT, other universities and local industry complete their research.\nIn the final analysis, McCartney says, the effort compelled ITaP \u201cto come up with solutions to problems they had never seen before\u2014in part because they involved an untested playing field in Colombia.\u201d\nIn the process of uncovering what it took to support and grow Apolo, ITaP was transformed\u2014with new skill sets, new experiences and new confidence in its ability to execute a daunting international project. The results of EAFIT\u2019s "irresponsible decision" have been momentous, not only for the two campuses involved, but for academic research and computing.