SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING NEWS
Mountain View, CA — SGI announced that U.S. Navy Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (Fleet Numerical) has signed an $18 million contract with SGI for next-generation ccNUMA supercomputing equipment that will increase its sustained computing power more than ten-fold. Fleet Numerical will use the heightened computing power to greatly improve the accuracy of the weather and ocean forecasts that U.S. forces use to keep troops safe and improve the effectiveness of military and peacekeeping operations. The Center is also vital to protecting the lives and property of civilians: This week, Fleet Numerical is helping forecast the landfall of Hurricane Floyd as it nears the Florida coast. The Center frequently provides key prediction and modeling support to civilian weather-prediction agencies as dangerous weather develops.
SGI competed against IBM and Sun for the project, which will begin with the installation of a 128-processor Origin2000 supercomputer later this year and culminate with a 512-processor “SN” supercomputer in 2001.
“SGI’s combination of technical prowess and excellent cost/performance ratio was far and away the best solution for Fleet Numerical for the foreseeable future,” said Paul Moersdorf, scientific and technical director for Fleet Numerical. “From today’s peacekeeping role in Kosovo to our ongoing presence in hostile areas such as Iraq, the United States has a growing number of military commitments that must be supported with the best weather forecasts possible.”
Improvements in Fleet Numerical’s operational forecasts can be vitally important to U.S. soldiers, sailors, humanitarians and civilians. For example, in the 1991 Gulf War, computer equipment available at the time was only powerful enough to produce forecasts over Iraq that were accurate to within 150 kilometers. The lack of high-resolution forecasts made it difficult to predict how the wind would disperse dangerous chemicals in Iraqi installations destroyed by Allied forces. When Fleet Numerical’s upgrade is complete, it will be able to calculate wind and weather patterns in places such as Iraq to within three kilometers, which could mean the difference between life and death for those in the path of harmful chemical or biological agents or radiation.
The length and scope of this relationship reportedly speak well for SGI’s supercomputing roadmap: “We were very comfortable with the direction that SGI was taking with its supercomputing architecture,” said Moersdorf. “Plus, we were impressed with the strong commitment the company has made to continuing to provide powerful, reliable supercomputers to the weather and environmental community.”
Fleet Numerical’s principal use for the SGI‘ Origin and SN supercomputers will be running the Center’s global suite of atmospheric and ocean models twice a day. Its global atmospheric model is the Center’s core offering to its thousands of customers around the world, including many other U.S. government agencies. After the Navy, Fleet Numerical’s biggest customers – including organizations such as the Air Force Weather Agency, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Central Intelligence Agency and the National Weather Service – use the output of this model to create their own specialized applications. In addition to the global model, the Center delivers theater-specific weather and ocean forecasts to U.S. military forces deployed around the world.
“Fleet Numerical is a world leader in advanced atmospheric and ocean modeling. Our breakthrough Origin and next-gen SN technology will help it better protect U.S. forces by powering the most accurate weather forecasts possible,” said John R. “Beau” Vrolyk, senior vice president, product group, SGI.
When the installation is completed in 2001, Fleet Numerical will have multiple next-generation SGI SN supercomputers, the cornerstone of which will be a 512-processor supercomputer running as a single system and using MIPS microprocessors and the IRIX operating system. SN is the codename for the successor product — slated for release in 2000 — to the SGI Origin 2000 supercomputer. When fully installed, this new supercomputer will provide a 33 times faster processing performance over the Center’s current supercomputers. The transition will begin with SGI’s installation of the 128-processor Origin 2000 supercomputer at Fleet Numerical’s site in Monterey, Calif.
For further information visit http://www.fnmoc.navy.mil or http://www.sgi.com