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!

Energy Exascale Earth System Model Version 2 Promises Twice the Speed

October 18, 2021

The Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) is an ongoing Department of Energy (DOE) earth system modeling, simulation and prediction project aiming to “assert and maintain an international scientific leadership posi 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…

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 1938746143

MosaicML, Led by Naveen Rao, Comes Out of Stealth Aiming to Ease Model Training

October 15, 2021

With more and more enterprises turning to AI for a myriad of tasks, companies quickly find out that training AI models is expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Finding a new approach to deal with those cascading challenges is the aim of a new startup, MosaicML, that just came out of stealth... Read more…

NSF Awards $11M to SDSC, MIT and Univ. of Oregon to Secure the Internet

October 14, 2021

From a security standpoint, the internet is a problem. The infrastructure developed decades ago has cracked, leaked and been patched up innumerable times, leaving vulnerabilities that are difficult to address due to cost Read more…

SC21 Announces Science and Beyond Plenary: the Intersection of Ethics and HPC

October 13, 2021

The Intersection of Ethics and HPC will be the guiding topic of SC21's Science & Beyond plenary, inspired by the event tagline of the same name. The evening event will be moderated by Daniel Reed with panelists Crist Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Cost optimizing Ansys LS-Dyna on AWS

Organizations migrate their high performance computing (HPC) workloads from on-premises infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for advantages such as high availability, elastic capacity, latest processors, storage, and networking technologies; Read more…

Quantum Workforce – NSTC Report Highlights Need for International Talent

October 13, 2021

Attracting and training the needed quantum workforce to fuel the ongoing quantum information sciences (QIS) revolution is a hot topic these days. Last week, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council issued a report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science... 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…

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 1938746143

MosaicML, Led by Naveen Rao, Comes Out of Stealth Aiming to Ease Model Training

October 15, 2021

With more and more enterprises turning to AI for a myriad of tasks, companies quickly find out that training AI models is expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Finding a new approach to deal with those cascading challenges is the aim of a new startup, MosaicML, that just came out of stealth... Read more…

Quantum Workforce – NSTC Report Highlights Need for International Talent

October 13, 2021

Attracting and training the needed quantum workforce to fuel the ongoing quantum information sciences (QIS) revolution is a hot topic these days. Last week, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council issued a report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science... Read more…

Eni Returns to HPE for ‘HPC4’ Refresh via GreenLake

October 13, 2021

Italian energy company Eni is upgrading its HPC4 system with new gear from HPE that will be installed in Eni’s Green Data Center in Ferrera Erbognone (a provi Read more…

The Blueprint for the National Strategic Computing Reserve

October 12, 2021

Over the last year, the HPC community has been buzzing with the possibility of a National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR). An in-utero brainchild of the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium, an NSCR would serve as a Merchant Marine for urgent computing... Read more…

UCLA Researchers Report Largest Chiplet Design and Early Prototyping

October 12, 2021

What’s the best path forward for large-scale chip/system integration? Good question. Cerebras has set a high bar with its wafer scale engine 2 (WSE-2); it has 2.6 trillion transistors, including 850,000 cores, and was fabricated using TSMC’s 7nm process on a roughly 8” x 8” silicon footprint. Read more…

What’s Next for EuroHPC: an Interview with EuroHPC Exec. Dir. Anders Dam Jensen

October 7, 2021

One year after taking the post as executive director of the EuroHPC JU, Anders Dam Jensen reviews the project's accomplishments and details what's ahead as EuroHPC's operating period has now been extended out to the year 2027. Read more…

University of Bath Unveils Janus, an Azure-Based Cloud HPC Environment

October 6, 2021

The University of Bath is upgrading its HPC infrastructure, which it says “supports a growing and wide range of research activities across the University.” Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer... Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months... 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…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In 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…

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... 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…

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…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer 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…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make i Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire