In May, CISL installed a new IBM supercomputer
that significantly increases NCAR’s computing
power. Scientists will use the system, named bluefire
(all NCAR computer names are spelled as one word
with no capital letters in accordance with Unix
operating system protocols), for research on climate
change and severe weather.
Bluefire, a Power 575 Hydro-Cluster,
has a peak speed of more than 76 teraflops (76 trillion
floating-point operations per second). When fully
operational, it is expected to rank among the 25
most powerful supercomputers in the world and will
more than triple NCAR’s sustained computing
“Bluefire is on the leading edge of high-performance
computing technology,” says Tom Bettge, CISL’s
director of operations and services. “Scientists
will be able to conduct breakthrough calculations,
study vital problems at much higher resolution and
complexity, and get results more quickly than before.”
Bluefire will enable scientists from
NCAR and the broader atmospheric sciences community
to accelerate research into climate change, including
future patterns of precipitation and drought around
the world, changes to agriculture and growing seasons,
and the complex influence of global warming on hurricanes.
The supercomputer will also be used to generate
climate simulations for the next IPCC report on
global warming. In addition, researchers will leverage
bluefire to improve weather forecasting models.
The supercomputer, which is the first
in a highly energy-efficient class of machines to
be shipped anywhere in the world, is three times
more energy efficient per rack than its predecessor.
It utilizes a water-based cooling system that is
33% more efficient than traditional air-cooled systems.
Heat is removed from the electronics by water-chilled
copper plates mounted in direct contact with the
system’s microprocessor chips.
“We’re especially pleased that bluefire
provides dramatically increased performance with
much greater energy efficiency,” Tom says.