The Week in Review
Here is a collection of highlights from this week’s news stream as reported by HPCwire.
Blue Waters Project Stirs Cost/Benefit Debate
From an article at Daily Illini, an independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois, we learn that there may be some trouble brewing over the shiny Blue Waters project. As always, it’s about the money.
From news writer, Joseph Ward:
The computer itself will cost $208 million to build and will be funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, or NSF. The cost of housing the supercomputer is $72 million; the University will pay $12 million and the state will pay $60 million, Barker said.
But with what administrators have called a “budget crisis” looming in the University’s near future, some have brought to question the morality of the University spending this much on a computer.
There is doubt whether the universe can afford the computer in light of these budget woes. However, as with any of these high-profile mega-computing projects, the final benefits are not always apparent at first. A massive, cutting-edge system like this brings more than monetary value, it brings prestige, reputation and recognition, and with that, it creates both academic and business parternships, drawing talent and capital to the region. Of course, all of those factors will eventually lead to revenue-generating endeavors.
As Lisa-Joy Zgorski, spokeswoman for NSF, said, the true value of Blue Waters will be realized in the future:
We (the NSF) are in the business of funding things that sometimes, at first blush, the practical implications for which are not immediately recognized. It’s (Blue Waters) building for the future and providing the computational resources to attack the really complex, daunting problems we are facing in society.
Which remindes me, the supercomputer will also do really good things like assist in solving humanities’ most pressing concerns. From Trish Barker, spokeswoman for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications:
Blue Waters will be used to do scientific research that relies on supercomputers. It might be doing better weather prediction. It might be looking at how the universe evolved in the very early days, and it might be trying to find an answer to global warming. It will be, in 2011, the most powerful supercomputer in the world.
German Weather Super Officially Launched
Scientists from the German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) inaugurated their new climate supercomputer today in a ceremony slated to coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Cophenagen this week.
The new €35 million euro supercomputer, named “Blizzard,” provides more accurate predictions of future climate change and enables more detailed climate calculations. Specifically, more complex processes and interactions can be included in models, and the spatial resolution of the climate models will be enhanced.
Blizzard — an IBM p575 “Power6″ cluster — has a peak speed of 158 teraflops, making it 60 times more powerful than its predecessor, and with a storage capacity of more than 60 petabytes (equal to approximately 13 million DVDs), it will be able to store 10 times as much data.
“It’s the biggest computer in the world to be dedicated solely to climate research,” said German Science Minister Annette Schavan at the inauguration.
As for power draw, DKRZ reps say that Blizzard is carbon neutral, which it owes to the use of green electricity generated by wind and other renewable energy sources.