New data center to be
based in Cheyenne
The news that so many were waiting for arrived in January,
when NCAR announced that its supercomputers will have a brand
new home in Cheyenne
And not just any home. The center will have up to 20,000
square feet of raised-floor computing space.
NCAR is building the center in partnership with the University
of Wyoming, the State of Wyoming, the Cheyenne–Laramie
County Corporation for Economic Development, the Wyoming
Business Council, and CU-Boulder.
“We are excited to work on this extraordinary and pathfinding
project with our colleagues at the University of Wyoming
and the University of Colorado to form new bridges of scientific
inquiry,” says Tim Killeen, NCAR director. “The
data center project is a major step for NCAR that will advance
research in the geosciences and enable us to greatly improve
our understanding of the world around us.”
NCAR managers and dignitaries from
the State of Wyoming gathered at a press conference
at the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne on January
25 to announce the data center partnership.
The computers, which will be upgraded regularly, will initially
achieve speeds of hundreds of teraflops. A teraflop is a
measure of a computer’s speed that can be expressed
as a trillion floating-point operations per second. By the
time the new center opens, it may be be possible to acquire
computers with speeds measured in petaflops, or a thousand
trillion floating-point operations per second. Such a computer
is a million times faster than an already-fast personal computer.
The road to Wyoming
NCAR considered partnerships for the data center with a
number of organizations along the Front Range, giving CU-Boulder
and the University of Wyoming particularly close scrutiny.
NCAR also looked into leasing space and retrofitting an existing
With support from NSF and the UCAR Board of Trustees, NCAR
chose to locate the center in Wyoming after a rigorous evaluation,
concluding that this partnership would facilitate getting
the greatest computing capability for the regional and national
scientific community at the earliest possible time.
“The Wyoming offer provides more computing power, sooner,
and at lower cost,” Tim explained during an all-staff
town hall meeting on January 31. “We’ve secured
the future of NCAR’s role in leadership computing.”
The Wyoming offer consists of a
24-acre “shovel-ready” site for construction
in the North Range Business Park in Cheyenne near the intersection
of I-80 and I-25, along with physical infra-
structure for fiber optics and guaranteed power transmission
of 24 megawatts. The University of Wyoming will provide $20
million in endowment funds for construction, as well as $1
million annually for operations. NCAR will utilize the State
of Wyoming’s bond program to fund construction, with
the state treasurer purchasing bonds that will be paid off
Although CU-Boulder’s offer would have given the new
center greater proximity to other NCAR facilities, it would
have left NCAR with a mortgage of $50 million rather than
$40 million and less long-term financial savings. The Cheyenne
site offers cheaper construction costs and lends itself to
future expansion. It also brings a transformative partnership
to a state that has traditionally lacked opportunities in
technology and research.
The new center will be the first NCAR facility to earn LEED
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification
for its design, construction, and operation. Measuring 108,000
square feet in total with 15,000-20,000 square feet of raised
floor, it will be built for 8 megawatts of power, with 4-5
megawatts for computing and 3-4 for cooling. The power will
be generated primarily from “clean” coal (coal
that has been chemically scrubbed to reduce emissions of
harmful pollutants) via Cheyenne Light Fuel and Power. NCAR
is also aggressively working to secure the provision of alternative
energy (wind and solar) for the facility, hoping to attain
an initial level of 10%.
“We’re going to push for environmentally friendly
solutions,” Tim says.
CU-Boulder will serve as one of the center’s founding
partners with NCAR and Wyoming. According to Tim, NCAR expects
these partnerships, stimulated by the data center, to lead
to new and fruitful scientific collaborations. The center
is expected to generate collaborations with other institutions
as well as part of an effort to develop a cyber-collaboratory.
One challenge the new center poses is that it will require
staff relocation to Cheyenne, as about 40-50 positions are
associated with the new center. CISL director Al Kellie stressed
during the town hall meeting that the organization has three
years to consider various staffing arrangements and determine
how to best manage staff in two locations.
Pending approval by the Wyoming legislature and NSF and completion
of a facility design and review process, construction should
begin within about one and a half years. Krista Laursen,
who served as project director for the acquisition of the
NSF/NCAR Gulfstream-V aircraft (HIAPER), will direct the
Data Center Project Office.
“All of us working on this project are very excited
to get started with the facility design process in the next
few months,” she says. • Nicole Gordon
In this issue...
data center to be based in Cheyenne
Change and Islands: Are Scientists Serving Society?
closures: A look behind the scenes
Profile: Justin Watt
by NCAR scientists on display
Question: Cafeterias trans-fat-free?
Just One Look
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