Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

By Tiffany Trader

February 24, 2020

Editor’s note: This article is the follow-up to our initial coverage. We’ve since got the system details, which we report on here. Also read our related coverage on NOAA’s AI strategy.

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. The long runway gives the managed service provider, CSRA (a General Dynamics Information Technology company), about a year to get the equipment in place, configured and accepted, and then from February of 2021 to February of 2022, NOAA will transition its code base over from the current systems.

With this hardware upgrade, ongoing model enhancements and NOAA’s emerging Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC), NOAA says the United States is keeping pace with other leading weather forecasting centers around the world. The prominence of the U.S. weather forecasting capabilities has at times been called into question, perhaps most notably when U.S. models stumbled while forecasting Hurricanes Sandy and Harvey.

The new supercomputing deployment represents a tripling of operational computational capacity for the U.S. weather forecasting agency.

Each identical Cray Shasta system spans 2,560 dual-socket nodes — housed in 10 cabinets — powered by second-gen AMD Epyc ‘Rome’ 64-core 7742 processors, connected by Cray’s Slingshot network. The total system memory per machine is 1.3 petabytes. Cray’s ClusterStor systems provide 26 petabytes of storage per site (a flash storage system with 614 terabytes of usable space and two HDD file systems with 12.5 petabytes of usable storage).

The peak theoretical performance of each Cray system is 12 petaflops, which combined with NOAA’s research and development machines brings the agency’s aggregate operational and research capacity to 40 peak petaflops. Shasta systems haven’t hit the Top500 list yet, but at a ballpark 80 percent Linpack efficiency, they’d be looking at a 25th place ranking on the current (Nov. 2019) list. As always though — and no more so than for weather prediction and storm forecasting — the only thing that matters is real-world performance. HPCwire spoke with some of the NOAA/NWS HPC team about what international leadership means to them.

“You can imagine there are a lot of different ways you can measure leadership,” said Brian Gross, director of Environmental Modeling Center for NOAA’s National Weather Service. “[You can] measure it by hurricane track, accuracy of the upper level flow, surface temperature anomalies… it really depends on what your application is. [Regarding] how good the model is, we’re always compared to some of the [leading] centers worldwide. And we actually work pretty closely with the other worldwide operational centers. We have scientific exchanges with the European Center, for example. So the idea that we’re in a fierce competition is kind of a weird one for us as we work with these folks on a pretty regular basis.”

Photo of Luna courtesy NOAA (2016)

Housed at GDIT-managed facilities in Manassas, Virginia, and Phoenix, Arizona, the new Crays will replace eight smaller machines that comprise a heterogeneous mix of processor and cluster types. Moving to a unified architecture will streamline NOAA’s operations, while maintaining the weather center’s primary-plus-backup workflow (more on that below).

The outgoing equipment includes older IBM iDataplex gear, a pair of Cray XC40s (Luna and Surge), that were deployed  in 2016, and a pair of Dell systems (Mars and Venus) installed in 2018. The agency is currently adding additional Dell machines to update the iDataplex systems so they are maintainable for the final two years of the managed service contract (with IBM).

Recall that NOAA’s operational centers are still managed by IBM, which procured the Cray and Dell systems after its x86 business was transferred to Lenovo in 2014. That IBM contract is up in February of 2022, at which time, GDIT will take over.

The transition to a new managed service provider coincides with a change in filesystem technology. After about 20 years of being on GPFS, NOAA is switching its systems over to Lustre. The move should not be seen as reflecting NOAA’s preference for a given filesystem, rather the agency provided the specification for performance-based requirements for the contract and what it required in terms of availability (99 percent system availability) as part of the open bid process and let industry decide what the best fit was in terms of the total proposed solution. “We were essentially looking for what the best fit was for what the integrator could provide…[and] the best performance-per-dollar with the availability requirements that we require for operational use of the system,” David Michaud, director, Office of Central Processing for NOAA’s National Weather Service, told HPCwire.

The decision to go with homogeneous x86 systems was made in a similar manner. NOAA asked the integrator to provide the best solution on the benchmark codes it utilizes. Meanwhile NOAA is exploring GPU technology on its research and development systems, and keeping its options open for the next hardware procurement. The contract with GDIT (there’s an 8-year base with a 2-year optional renewal) is split into two periods. The first task order covers the two Cray CPU-based systems, but the second period is still undefined, affording NOAA time to explore and assess the realm of possibilities as technology develops and as leadership computing facilities, many of which have moved or are moving to heterogeneous GPU-powered systems, help develop and influence technological advancements.

The twin Cray systems are perfectly symmetrical between geographically-segregated sites (Manassas, Virginia, and Phoenix, Arizona), and take turns acting as the primary or backup system. Michaud explained that on any given day, NOAA can run at production, its full operational 24×7 modeling suite on one of the systems. The backup system is used for transition to operations and other development work while it’s not in use as the primary, and NOAA can switch the orientation of the primary and the backup site in operations within a 15 minute period, and does so regularly, at least on a monthly basis.

The arrangement assures redundancy, as data is always mirrored to the backup system, offering advantages from a troubleshooting and maintenance perspective and providing an added layer of protection for the mission- and safety-critical work of weather prediction. “If we make a change to one, we know we can test it, and then we can apply the change to the back-up system as well,” said Michaud. “We know if one’s not behaving similar to the other, we can identify the differences and troubleshoot them. And then, the other thing that’s really important is for the type of work that we do, given storm systems and other weather systems can be massive in scale and encompass hundreds of miles, it’s really beneficial for us to have the separation of the sites, so that if we have any issues on one site, we can switch to the other site.”

The significant supercomputing upgrade targets three separate areas for model improvements: resolution, complexity and the size of ensembles. “We want to go to higher resolutions that would capture the finer-scale features in the phenomena we’re predicting,” Gross told us. “We want to create and implement more comprehensive models to include as much of the complexity that is going on in the atmosphere as we can in our models — can we improve our model physics, for example. And then the last piece is growing the size of ensembles that we use, which give us a lot of information in how certain we can be in any particular forecast; ensembles inform our level of confidence in the numerical guidance that we produce. All of these areas are going to be improved when we move on to the system.”

Last summer, NOAA upgraded its deterministic global forecast system, and its next big upgrade will be the ensemble system. Currently, NOAA is incorporating the new dynamical core that it put into the deterministic Global Forecast System (GFS) into the Global Ensemble Forecast System (aka the GES). “We’re aligning the ensemble system now with the deterministic system — and part of that is complexity and ensemble size. We’re looking forward to increasing the ensemble size of the GES so that we can get better information on forecast services,” said Gross.

NOAA’s contract with GDIT has a total estimated value of $505.2 million, spanning a base period of eight years with a two-year optional renewal. GDIT provides its supercomputing resources as-a-service through NOAA’s Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS) contract. The value of the first task order, written under the larger contract, is $150 million dollars to provide managed services over five years.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Multiverse Targets ‘Quantum Computing for the Masses’

January 19, 2022

The race to deliver quantum computing solutions that shield users from the underlying complexity of quantum computing is heating up quickly. One example is Multiverse Computing, a European company, which today launched the second financial services product in its Singularity product group. The new offering, Fair Price, “delivers a higher accuracy in fair price calculations for financial... Read more…

Students at SC21: Out in Front, Alongside and Behind the Scenes

January 19, 2022

The Supercomputing Conference (SC) is one of the biggest international conferences dedicated to high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis. SC21 was a true ‘hybrid’ conference, with a total of 380 o Read more…

New Algorithm Overcomes Hurdle in Fusion Energy Simulation

January 15, 2022

The exascale era has brought with it a bevy of fusion energy simulation projects, aiming to stabilize the notoriously delicate—and so far, unmastered—clean energy source that would transform the world virtually overn Read more…

Summit Powers Novel Protein Function Prediction Work

January 13, 2022

There are hundreds of millions of sequenced proteins and counting—but only 170,000 have had their structures solved by researchers, bottlenecking our understanding of proteins and their functions across organisms’ ge Read more…

Q-Ctrl – Tackling Quantum Hardware’s Noise Problems with Software

January 13, 2022

Implementing effective error mitigation and correction is a critical next step in advancing quantum computing. While a lot of attention has been given to efforts to improve the underlying ‘noisy’ hardware, there's be Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

shutterstock 377963800

New – Amazon EC2 Hpc6a Instance Optimized for High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing (HPC) allows scientists and engineers to solve complex, compute-intensive problems such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD), weather forecasting, and genomics. Read more…

Nvidia Defends Arm Acquisition Deal: a ‘Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity’

January 13, 2022

GPU-maker Nvidia is continuing to try to keep its proposed acquisition of British chip IP vendor Arm Ltd. alive, despite continuing concerns from several governments around the world. In its latest action, Nvidia filed a 29-page response to the U.K. government to point out a list of potential benefits of the proposed $40 billion deal. Read more…

Multiverse Targets ‘Quantum Computing for the Masses’

January 19, 2022

The race to deliver quantum computing solutions that shield users from the underlying complexity of quantum computing is heating up quickly. One example is Multiverse Computing, a European company, which today launched the second financial services product in its Singularity product group. The new offering, Fair Price, “delivers a higher accuracy in fair price calculations for financial... Read more…

Students at SC21: Out in Front, Alongside and Behind the Scenes

January 19, 2022

The Supercomputing Conference (SC) is one of the biggest international conferences dedicated to high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis. SC Read more…

Q-Ctrl – Tackling Quantum Hardware’s Noise Problems with Software

January 13, 2022

Implementing effective error mitigation and correction is a critical next step in advancing quantum computing. While a lot of attention has been given to effort Read more…

Nvidia Defends Arm Acquisition Deal: a ‘Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity’

January 13, 2022

GPU-maker Nvidia is continuing to try to keep its proposed acquisition of British chip IP vendor Arm Ltd. alive, despite continuing concerns from several governments around the world. In its latest action, Nvidia filed a 29-page response to the U.K. government to point out a list of potential benefits of the proposed $40 billion deal. Read more…

Nvidia Buys HPC Cluster Management Company Bright Computing

January 10, 2022

Graphics chip powerhouse Nvidia today announced that it has acquired HPC cluster management company Bright Computing for an undisclosed sum. Unlike Nvidia’s bid to purchase semiconductor IP company Arm, which has been stymied by regulatory challenges, the Bright deal is a straightforward acquisition that aims to expand... Read more…

SC21 Panel on Programming Models – Tackling Data Movement, DSLs, More

January 6, 2022

How will programming future systems differ from current practice? This is an ever-present question in computing. Yet it has, perhaps, never been more pressing g Read more…

Edge to Exascale: A Trend to Watch in 2022

January 5, 2022

Edge computing is an approach in which the data is processed and analyzed at the point of origin – the place where the data is generated. This is done to make data more accessible to end-point devices, or users, and to reduce the response time for data requests. HPC-class computing and networking technologies are critical to many edge use cases, and the intersection of HPC and ‘edge’ promises to be a hot topic in 2022. Read more…

Citing ‘Shortfalls,’ NOAA Targets Hundred-Fold HPC Increase Over Next Decade

January 5, 2022

From upgrading the Global Forecast System (GFS) to acquiring new supercomputers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been making big moves in the HPC sphere over the last few years—but now it’s setting the bar even higher. In a new report, NOAA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) highlighted... Read more…

IonQ Is First Quantum Startup to Go Public; Will It be First to Deliver Profits?

November 3, 2021

On October 1 of this year, IonQ became the first pure-play quantum computing start-up to go public. At this writing, the stock (NYSE: IONQ) was around $15 and its market capitalization was roughly $2.89 billion. Co-founder and chief scientist Chris Monroe says it was fun to have a few of the company’s roughly 100 employees travel to New York to ring the opening bell of the New York Stock... Read more…

US Closes in on Exascale: Frontier Installation Is Underway

September 29, 2021

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, held by Zoom this week (Sept. 29-30), it was revealed that the Frontier supercomputer is currently being installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership... Read more…

AMD Launches Milan-X CPU with 3D V-Cache and Multichip Instinct MI200 GPU

November 8, 2021

At a virtual event this morning, AMD CEO Lisa Su unveiled the company’s latest and much-anticipated server products: the new Milan-X CPU, which leverages AMD’s new 3D V-Cache technology; and its new Instinct MI200 GPU, which provides up to 220 compute units across two Infinity Fabric-connected dies, delivering an astounding 47.9 peak double-precision teraflops. “We're in a high-performance computing megacycle, driven by the growing need to deploy additional compute performance... Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Nvidia Buys HPC Cluster Management Company Bright Computing

January 10, 2022

Graphics chip powerhouse Nvidia today announced that it has acquired HPC cluster management company Bright Computing for an undisclosed sum. Unlike Nvidia’s bid to purchase semiconductor IP company Arm, which has been stymied by regulatory challenges, the Bright deal is a straightforward acquisition that aims to expand... Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat fo Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

Three Chinese Exascale Systems Detailed at SC21: Two Operational and One Delayed

November 24, 2021

Details about two previously rumored Chinese exascale systems came to light during last week’s SC21 proceedings. Asked about these systems during the Top500 media briefing on Monday, Nov. 15, list author and co-founder Jack Dongarra indicated he was aware of some very impressive results, but withheld comment when asked directly if he had... Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Lessons from LLVM: An SC21 Fireside Chat with Chris Lattner

December 27, 2021

Today, the LLVM compiler infrastructure world is essentially inescapable in HPC. But back in the 2000 timeframe, LLVM (low level virtual machine) was just getting its start as a new way of thinking about how to overcome shortcomings in the Java Virtual Machine. At the time, Chris Lattner was a graduate student of... Read more…

2021 Gordon Bell Prize Goes to Exascale-Powered Quantum Supremacy Challenge

November 18, 2021

Today at the hybrid virtual/in-person SC21 conference, the organizers announced the winners of the 2021 ACM Gordon Bell Prize: a team of Chinese researchers leveraging the new exascale Sunway system to simulate quantum circuits. The Gordon Bell Prize, which comes with an award of $10,000 courtesy of HPC pioneer Gordon Bell, is awarded annually... Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

Three Universities Team for NSF-Funded ‘ACES’ Reconfigurable Supercomputer Prototype

September 23, 2021

As Moore’s law slows, HPC developers are increasingly looking for speed gains in specialized code and specialized hardware – but this specialization, in turn, can make testing and deploying code trickier than ever. Now, researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois at Urbana... Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Top500: No Exascale, Fugaku Still Reigns, Polaris Debuts at #12

November 15, 2021

No exascale for you* -- at least, not within the High-Performance Linpack (HPL) territory of the latest Top500 list, issued today from the 33rd annual Supercomputing Conference (SC21), held in-person in St. Louis, Mo., and virtually, from Nov. 14–19. "We were hoping to have the first exascale system on this list but that didn’t happen," said Top500 co-author... Read more…

TACC Unveils Lonestar6 Supercomputer

November 1, 2021

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is unveiling its latest supercomputer: Lonestar6, a three peak petaflops Dell system aimed at supporting researchers Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire