NOAA’s ‘Gaea’ Supercomputer Begins Number Crunching for Climate Science

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its partners get a big boost

The Gaea supercomputer runs simulations at the National Climate-Computing Research Center, which supports NOAA research of the Earth system. Image courtesy Jim Rogers.

A supercomputer installed to crunch numbers for the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) and its research partners has begun climate simulations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). A mural of snow-capped mountains and hovering clouds adorns the front of the high-performance computing (HPC) system and reflects its mission—assessing climate variability and change in the Earth system. The supercomputer is the premier resource for scientists collaborating at NOAA’s new National Climate-Computing Research Center (NCRC).

“The name of the machine is Gaea, or Mother Earth, from Greek mythology,” says Jim Rogers, director of operations at ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences, which houses the new Cray XT6 machine. Rogers directs NOAA’s Climate Modeling and Research System (CMRS) project at ORNL to support NCRC activities. The CMRS is owed by DOE and operated by ORNL’s managing contractor, UT-Battelle, on behalf of the NOAA customer.

Gaea will occupy the same half-acre computer room as the world’s fastest supercomputer, Jaguar, a Cray XT5 system run by ORNL and funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, and Kraken, the fastest academic supercomputer, a Cray XT5 system run by the University of Tennessee and ORNL and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Cray will deliver the HPC system through a series of upgrades that will culminate in a petascale system by the end of 2011.

In June 2010, installation concluded for a 260-teraflop (trillion calculations per second) Cray XT6 system with 2,576 AMD “Magny-Cours” 12-core, 2.1 GHz processors. After passing a series of acceptance tests, Gaea was released to early users. In September, nearly a dozen users began ramping up their data production.

In June 2011, a 720-teraflop Cray XE6 system will be added to Gaea. It will employ the next-generation AMD Interlagos 16-core processor. After the installation of that second system, the original 260-teraflop system will be upgraded with the same AMD Interlagos processor to achieve 386 teraflops.

The aggregate Gaea system will have a total memory size of 248 terabytes and a peak calculating capability of 1.1 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second), bringing the number of petascale systems at ORNL, the world’s most powerful computing complex, to three.

The next-generation HPC system is liquid-cooled using Cray’s ECOphlex technology, which employs a refrigerant to remove most of the 2.2 MW heat load. The technology is significantly more energy-efficient than the air-cooling systems typically found in other leading-edge HPC systems.

The CMRS includes two separate file systems, both founded on the Lustre parallel file system, to handle data sets that will be among the world’s largest. A high-capacity file system based on DataDirect Networks SFA10000 can stage up to 3.6 petabytes of information. Meanwhile, a high-speed file system with more than a petabyte of storage provides fast scratch space.

NOAA research partners access data remotely through speedy interconnections. Two 10-gigabit (billion bit) lambdas, or optical waves, pass data to NOAA’s national research network through peering points at Atlanta and Chicago.

—by Dawn Levy

This entry was posted in Highlights. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.