Cray has a cheerful Christmas

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In a final seasonal burst of good cheer, Cray has announced two big new orders for its computers following immediately on from the start-up of a newly installed machine at the University of Hawaii, just ahead of Christmas.

On 5 January, the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that it is to increase its supercomputing capacity tenfold over the next ten months. In order to provide more timely, accurate, reliable, and detailed forecasts, the capacity of each of NOAA’s two supercomputers will rise to 2.5 petaflops each -- a total of 5 petaflops. Cray will be the subcontractor to provide the computer power.

In mid-December, Cray announced the US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded it a $30 million contract for two Cray XC40 supercomputers and two Cray Sonexion storage systems, to be installed at US Navy’s Supercomputing Resource Center (Navy DSRC) in Mississippi.

And just three days before Christmas, the University of Hawaii (UH) put its new Cray CS cluster supercomputer into production. The new Cray system was the University’s first centralised high performance computing system, and is located on the Manoa Campus in a new 8,000 square foot, data centre.

The University of Hawaii system includes three universities, seven community colleges, and community-based learning centres, all of which are geographically dispersed across the Hawaiian Islands The new machine is intended for civilian research applications and will serve as the primary high performance computing system for researchers throughout the university’s network of campuses. It will also be used to support data-intensive research. The University of Hawaii specialises in astronomy, oceanography, climate, atmospheric, space and energy research in addition to research in tropical medicine, microbial oceanography, together with coastal and marine research.

NOAA provides the information, data, and services, needed for advance action in case of severe weather, water, and climate events. According to Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA’s Administrator: ‘These supercomputing upgrades will lead to more timely, accurate, and reliable forecasts.’

Each of the two supercomputers will triple their current capacity later this month (to at least 0.776 petaflops for a total capacity of 1.552 petaflops). This will allow NOAA’s National Weather Service to begin running an upgraded version of the Global Forecast System (GFS) in January that provides greater resolution and extends further out in time. The new GFS will increase resolution from 27km to 13km out to 10 days, and 55km to 33km for 11 to 16 days. In addition, the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) will be upgraded by increasing the number of vertical levels from 42 to 64 and increasing the horizontal resolution from 55km to 27km out to eight days and 70km to 33km from days nine to 16.

NOAA’s National Weather Service has already upgraded existing models – such as the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model, which did particularly well during the 2014 hurricane season.

The increase in supercomputing capacity comes via a $44.5 million investment using NOAA's operational high performance computing contract with IBM, $25 million of which was provided through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy. Cray will serve as a subcontractor for IBM to provide the new systems to NOAA. Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray, said: ‘We are excited to provide NOAA’s National Weather Service with advanced supercomputing capabilities for running operational weather forecasts with greater detail and precision. We are honoured these forecasts will be prepared using Cray supercomputers.’

The US Navy’s Supercomputing Resource Center (Navy DSRC) in Mississippi will use the Cray XC40 supercomputers to produce high-resolution, coastal-ocean circulation and wave-model oceanography products supporting Navy and US DoD operations worldwide. The Navy DSRC is one of the five supercomputing centres established by the Department of Defense’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP).

The contract is valued at more than $30 million in product revenue and also includes four separately priced one year options for maintenance. The systems are expected to be installed in 2015.

According to Christine Cuicchi, the Associate Director for HPC Centers within the High Performance Computing Modernization Program, the Department of Defense has ‘purchased over $150 million of supercomputers within the 2014 calendar year. The XC40s provide a 2.5x increase in the Navy DoD Supercomputing Resource Center’s capability. These supercomputers are vital to ground-breaking science and research discoveries in support of the US Department of Defense.’

Special features of the Cray XC40 include: the Aries interconnect; a Dragonfly network topology that frees applications from locality constraints; optional DataWarp applications I/O flash SSD accelerator technology; innovative cooling systems to lower customers’ total cost of ownership; the scalable, Cray Linux Environment supporting a wide range of applications; Cray’s HPC-optimised programming environment for improved programmability, and the ability to handle a wide variety of processor types in a tightly-integrated system infrastructure. Sonexion storage combines Cray’s Lustre expertise with a tightly integrated, unique design that allows for scalability and performance. Management and operations are simplified through an appliance design with all storage components including software, storage and infrastructure.