The Noblis Center for Applied High Performance Computing — a high-tech supercomputer company at 527 Bridge St. — announced Monday it has signed a second five-year lease to continue doing business in Danville.
The company plans to install the next generation of big data processors to work alongside the Cray MXT 2 that was activated at the site in 2012.
Brent Gulick — who represented Cray Computers and helped when Noblis brought the supercomputer to Danville — said Cray and Noblis knew they needed partners to help with the project, the brainchild of Dr. H. Gilbert Miller, Noblis’s chief information officer at the time.
Gulick said the project started after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The work the company does is all for the federal government, much of it for the National Security Agency, Gulick said.
Finally all the pieces came together in 2009, about the time the recession hit and funding for almost any project dried up.
“There were no funds for a NSA supercomputer with no track record,” Gulick said.
Eventually, Noblis and Cray learned about the Virginia Tobacco Commission. Located in Northern Virginia, company officials went to meet with Tobacco Commission representatives, only to be told they would not finance a project in the northern part of the state, but if they could find a Southside partner, the possibilities for funding were good.
A memorandum of understanding was signed 14 months later.
Jon Horin, the senior manager at the Danville site, has been with Noblis for 25 years. The company started looking for a manger for the site in 2014. He and his wife — Recent empty-nesters with their son off to college — were able to quickly sell their home in northern Virginia, buy one in Danville and move to the city.
“It’s been a most enjoyable part of our lives … to be so engaged in the Danville community,” Horin said. “[Noblis] is an important asset for our community.”
Miller died in 2015, and Neal Morris — chairman of the Industrial Development Authority, which owns the building — announced Monday a plaque honoring Miller’s efforts to bring the supercomputer to Danville.
“It’s beyond my comprehension what [the supercomputer can do], but it’s great for Danville and great for the nation,” Morris said.
The company agreed to have at least 15 employees. During the announcement Horin said they are now up to 23 employees and look to hire even more as need arises.
Horin said he can’t talk specifics on the work they are doing, however, “Noblis has the Cray and other supercomputing resources, which allow us to answer problems of national significance.”