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October 2005

NCAR's supercomputing capacity doubles with bluevista

NCAR's newest supercomputer will enable scientists to cut the time for complex scientific calculations in half.

Named bluevista, the machine will work alongside the Mesa Lab's other two supercomputers: an IBM POWER4-based machine called bluesky and an IBM e1350 Linux Cluster known as lightning. (All NCAR computer names are spelled as one word with no capital letters because of Unix operating system protocols.)

The combined computational power of the three supercomputers places NCAR among the top 25 institutions worldwide as measured by computational capacity, estimates Tom Bettge, deputy director of SCD.


(Photo by Carlye Calvin. More images.)

The new machine is an IBM p575 based on IBM's POWER5 processor. It was delivered to NCAR in late August, and software installation began on September 6. Testing will continue throughout the fall.

The new machine's first challenge will be to study the effects of tropical convection on hurricanes and other tropical weather systems, using a regional climate model embedded in a global model (see cover story for more on this research).

SCD plans to make bluevista available for general use in January.

"At that time, our supercomputing capacity will nearly double, instantaneously," Tom says. "The number of sustained flops [floating-point operations per second] on our typical workload will go from 400 gigaflops to almost 800 gigaflops."

He adds that a typical application will run about twice as fast on bluevista as it does on bluesky, depending on the requirements of the application.

Bluevista is smaller and denser than its predecessor, the IBM POWER4-based unit. Although it takes up only a third as much floor space as the older supercomputer, it requires two-thirds as much power and cooling. Tom estimates that bluevista will need more than 250 kilowatts of power to operate. The average personal computer consumes 0.12 kilowatts.

Even as bluevista is being tested, SCD is working on plans for the next increase in NCAR's computing capacity. In 2007, it anticipates deploying a new supercomputer system, called the Integrated Computing Environment for Scientific Simulation. The system is expected to provide four to six times the computing capacity of bluesky.

• by Lynda Lester and Carol Rasmussen

Also in this issue...

NCAR hurricane work reaches new intensity

A visitor from New Orleans

SACNAS visitors

Taking command after Katrina

A day for girl scouts

Vin Lally

A first-class home for conferences

New HR Web system

bluevista doubles supercomputing capacity

New climate exhibit

Weathering the media coverage

Delphi Question

Just One Look


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