SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING NEWS
Mountain VIew, CA — SGI announced that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) has purchased and installed a Cray SV1 system, the company’s newest supercomputer. The system – which will consist of 64 powerful vector processors when fully operational – will contribute to research in many fields, including the investigation of global climate change, research into the physics of fusion energy and deciphering the human genetic code.
“SGI’s Cray SV1 will aid our scientific users in their work on some of the most important problems facing science today,” said Horst Simon, director of NERSC, which is located at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. “For example, in the area of climate research, more accurate and detailed models of the earth’s climate are giving us a better understanding of the effects of human activity on our global environment.”
In addition to climate research, the Cray SV1 supercomputer will be used by researchers investigating the feasibility of magnetic fusion energy, whereby powerful magnetic fields are configured to create traps that can confine hot gases of charged particles while they are heated to temperatures of over 100 million degrees centigrade, causing them to fuse together and release energy. Fusion, envisioned as producing a “clean, nearly unlimited energy source sometime in the first half of the next century,” has been a core part of NERSC research since the center was established in 1974 primarily to support magnetic fusion research.
Stephen Jardin, the principal investigator at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, has been a longtime user of the NERSC supercomputers and is presently chair of NERSC’s Program Advisory Committee. He and others in his field have been eagerly awaiting the Cray SV1 supercomputer. “Many of our most complex design and simulation codes employ algorithms that are particularly well suited to the Cray SV1 computer’s scalable vector architecture,” said Jardin. “We expect to be able to make very effective use of these machines immediately, and are excited about the new research possibilities that they open for us.”
The very powerful Cray SV1 single processors that are the hallmark of the vector computing architecture are essential to solving many of NERSC’s applications. SGI’s first scalable vector supercomputer, the Cray SV1 system, combines powerful processors with the scalability features necessary to link large numbers of processors together.
“Our vector supercomputers are a vital part of our computing arsenal,” said Simon. “For certain applications, the unique processing power and high bandwidth brought by vector machines such as the Cray SV1 are absolutely essential.”
On the climate front, NERSC researchers are running the Climate System Model (CSM) to gauge the effect of greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols on the atmosphere. NERSC expects application performance on the CSM to increase by 300 percent once the Cray SV1 system is fully installed. Developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the CSM analyzes conditions in the atmosphere, ocean, land surface and sea ice to create a comprehensive model of overall climate change.
“NERSC’s installation of the new Cray SV1 system demonstrates the continuing need for vector computing and our unique scalable vector model in particular,” said Steve Oberlin, vice president, Cray Business Unit, SGI. “With its diverse base of applications and users, NERSC is a good example of how vector computers fit into the supercomputing landscape.”
NERSC also owns a massively parallel 692-processor Cray T3E supercomputer, one of the 20 most powerful computers in the world ( http://www.top500.org). Additional information about NERSC is available at http://www.nersc.gov