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June 2008

Bluefire burns hot—with less energy

New supercomputer powerful and efficient

bluefire computer


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 capacity.

“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.

In this issue...

Measuring the Arctic's haze and smoke

NCAR names three new senior scientists

UCAR readies new financial management tools

Bluefire burns hot - with less energy

Researchers study monsoon in Taiwan

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