Air Force Launches Cray Weather Forecasting Supercomputer in Partnership with HPE, ORNL

By Tiffany Trader

February 10, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is now home to one of the first HPE Cray EX supercomputing deployments, which ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences is operating on behalf of the United States Air Force. Comprising two Cray EX supercomputers (formerly codenamed Shasta), the system — which became fully operational this week — delivers a combined 7.2 (peak) petaflops of numerical weather prediction capability to support Air Force and Army missions worldwide. The deal is valued at $25 million.

The Air Force named the new systems “Fawbush” and “Miller” after meteorologists Major Ernest Fawbush and Captain Robert Miller, who delivered the first tornado forecast at the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma in 1948.

Each twin Cray EX supercomputer comprises 800 nodes, each equipped with two second-generation AMD 7742 Epyc Rome (64-core) processors. While currently boasting only CPUs, heterogeneity is on the horizon: each four-cabinet system can be expanded to 1,024 nodes — allowing the addition of future GPU-based nodes that would enable a 10X boost in floating point performance, according to ORNL. A small order of Nvidia Ampere A100 GPU-accelerated blades will be deployed this spring, and the additional cabinet space will also accommodate future-generation AMD+AMD nodes, i.e., the same node design as ORNL’s incoming exascale system, Frontier (using one AMD Epyc CPU and four AMD Instinct GPUs).

“We will absolutely have Frontier style blades in this machine,” said Jim Rogers, ORNL’s computing and facilities director, in an interview with HPCwire. Rogers, who led the acquisition, said the flexibility to have different node types really extends the research life of the machine. “If the research is extremely promising along any of these lines, that helps us determine where we want to go with a midlife upgrade,” he added, noting the project’s 10-year service life.

The deployment, internally called “HPC11,” uses 100 Gbps Slingshot networking with a standalone Slingshot fabric manager, which Rogers describes as being “unwrapped from the original Shasta design.” ORNL also separated all of the login and service nodes out into a separate hall. The original contract was announced in August 2019, one month before HPE closed on the Cray acquisition, so some of the subsequent system design decisions were made to accommodate scheduling risks associated with the acquisition process.

“We separated all of the non-compute, front-end stuff out very early, so that we could reduce the dependence on the Shasta software stack,” said Rogers. “And we basically rolled our own. Then as HPCM (HPE Performance Cluster Management) extensions became available to support the Cray EX, we integrated HPCM back into what we had initially started. So now it’s all completely supported configuration end to end.”

For their storage needs, ORNL went with a pair of high-performance Lustre file systems from DDN (SFA14K). “We did have to figure out how to tie those file systems back to the Slingshot fabric manager. That was actually one of the more difficult things, figuring out how to extend 100 Gig Slingshot fabric to the file systems. And we’ve managed to do that through some Arista networks switches,” said Rogers.

Given the mission critical nature of the system, resiliency and redundancy are serious design considerations. Fawbush and Miller each have their own unique power source with a dedicated power line. “We spent a significant amount of time on the design side working on the resiliency of this machine – the facilities, the power, the cooling and the system design – so that we can always be available,” Rogers said. “So, regardless of what’s going on, whether we have a scheduled or unscheduled outage, whatever the cause, there will always be more than enough computing capability available for them to get their work done.”

SchedMD Slurm workload manager runs in a federated configuration across the identical systems, such that they can be operated independently and concurrently. “Jobs are scheduled through Slurm and Slurm can run the job on either system; the user doesn’t have to know,” said Rogers. “The workload that the Air Force has can run completely independently on just one of the two halls, and they can still meet all their mission requirements. So for example, if Miller needs to go offline for whatever reason, scheduled maintenance, I can do that, and then Fawbush can carry the entire load. The federated Slurm capability kind of hides where the compute happens.”

As you might imagine, there are synergies with the Frontier project, which Rogers was happy to discuss. “The decision to move to HPCM with the standalone Slingshot fabric manager was driven by the ability to test it out at this scale,” he said. “Now Frontier is going to follow the same approach with the stand-alone fabric manager, HPCM and the entire ecosystem and stack. The experiences should dramatically improve the ability for us to start getting the Frontier cabinets in. Even though it’s a very different scale, the underlying experience is already there. And we have a lot of confidence in the underlying products: the software stack, the compute OS, the fabric manager, the HPCM implementation, all of that’s already well understood. So, the synergies are fantastic.”

Air Force weather researchers primarily rely on the Global Air Land Weather Exploitation Model (GALWEM), a commercial code based on the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office’s Unified Model. In benchmarking using this production code, the new Cray EX system delivered more than six-and-a-half times the sustained performance of the researchers’ current system, Thor, a Broadwell-era HPE machine installed at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska in 2016. The official transition to production on the new system is currently underway.

The additional computing power will immediately support finer model resolution — going from 17 kilometers to 10 kilometers between grid points. Such high-precision forecasting is critical for U.S. defense missions around the world.

“Looking to the future it is imperative that we take this step to ensure continued U.S. and allied dominance relative to our strategic competitors,”  said Col. Gary Kubat, acting Air Force Weather director. “This system has the growth potential to continue to meet emerging warfighter needs while enabling Air Force Weather to stay in lock-step with our modeling partners as we together develop the next generation weather models.”

The Cray EX deployment marks a major goalpost in a collaboration between the U.S. Air Force and Oak Ridge National Lab that commenced in 2018. The strategic agreement, made in recognition of the increasing scale and complexity of requirements for numerical weather forecasting, enables Air Force researchers to leverage the capabilities of ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences. ORNL provides their expertise in high performance computing facilities and infrastructure, systems administration and operations, and procurement and acquisition.

The win for HPE, which acquired Cray Inc. for $1.3 billion in Sept. 2019, continues the long succession of HPE and Cray systems installed at top weather forecasting sites worldwide, including NOAA and the UK Met Office. The new system is the first operational HPE Cray EX supercomputer at a federal facility, according to ORNL. The same architecture will power the United States’ first three exascale supercomputers, including the aforementioned Frontier, slated to be delivered at Oak Ridge by the end of the year.

“We are thrilled to have built the U.S. Air Force a new supercomputer that is one of the first operational systems powered by the latest HPE Cray EX supercomputer and managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL),” said Bill Mannel, vice president and general manager, HPC at HPE. “The end-to-end HPC technologies made possible by the HPE Cray EX supercomputer will enable greater speed and dedicated performance to advance simulations in weather forecasting that were never made possible before.”

ORNL provides the supercomputing services to the Air Force 557th Weather Wing, tasked with providing terrestrial and space weather information to the U.S. Air Force and Army.

In partnership with ORNL’s Computational Earth Sciences Division, the U.S. Air Force is on track to break new ground in weather forecasting. Targeted scenarios include:

Forecast[ing] stream flow, flooding, or inundation to predict how much of a given land will be submerged in water and the level of its depth. Researchers plan to achieve this by creating a global hydrology model that involves simulating hundreds of watershed and drainage basins to eventually increase accuracy in predicting future events.

Remote sensing of a cloud-covered area to address how to navigate impacted missions through forecasting the formation, growth and precipitation of atmospheric clouds. Researchers plan to achieve this by using comprehensive cloud physics that are not made possible with existing statistical regression models.

The new system was installed in two phases beginning in February 2020. Formal acceptance took place late January 2021, and a Certificate of Readiness was issued to the Air Force on February 5, 2021. As of February 8, 2021, Air Force Weather has initiated their transition to production.

 

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!

IBM Quantum Challenge 2021 – Let the Programming Begin!

May 17, 2021

Looking to sharpen or perhaps simply explore your quantum programming skills? On Thursday, IBM fires up its IBM Quantum Challenge 2021 marking the fifth anniversary of IBM Quantum Experience cloud services and the 40th  Read more…

Q&A with Altair CEO James Scapa, an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2021

May 14, 2021

Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Altair James R. Scapa closed several acquisitions for the company in 2020, including the purchase and integration of Univa and Ellexus. Scapa founded Altair more than 35 years ago with two Read more…

HLRS HPC Helps to Model Muscle Movements

May 13, 2021

The growing scale of HPC is allowing simulation of more and more complex systems at greater detail than ever before, particularly in the biological research spheres. Now, researchers at the University of Stuttgart are le Read more…

Behind the Met Office’s Procurement of a Billion-Dollar Microsoft System

May 13, 2021

The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, caused shockwaves of curiosity a few weeks ago when it formally announced that its forthcoming billion-dollar supercomputer – expected to be the most powerful weather and climate-focused supercomputer in the world when it launches in 2022... Read more…

AMD, GlobalFoundries Commit to $1.6 Billion Wafer Supply Deal

May 13, 2021

AMD plans to purchase $1.6 billion worth of wafers from GlobalFoundries in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe, the chipmaker revealed today (May 13) in an SEC filing. In the face of global semiconductor shortages and record-high demand, AMD is renegotiating its Wafer Supply Agreement and bumping up capacity. Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Numerical weather prediction on AWS Graviton2

The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is a numerical weather prediction (NWP) system designed to serve both atmospheric research and operational forecasting needs. Read more…

Hyperion Offers Snapshot of Quantum Computing Market

May 13, 2021

The nascent quantum computer (QC) market will grow 27 percent annually (CAGR) reaching $830 million in 2024 according to an update provided today by analyst firm Hyperion Research at the HPC User Forum being held this we Read more…

Behind the Met Office’s Procurement of a Billion-Dollar Microsoft System

May 13, 2021

The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, caused shockwaves of curiosity a few weeks ago when it formally announced that its forthcoming billion-dollar supercomputer – expected to be the most powerful weather and climate-focused supercomputer in the world when it launches in 2022... Read more…

AMD, GlobalFoundries Commit to $1.6 Billion Wafer Supply Deal

May 13, 2021

AMD plans to purchase $1.6 billion worth of wafers from GlobalFoundries in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe, the chipmaker revealed today (May 13) in an SEC filing. In the face of global semiconductor shortages and record-high demand, AMD is renegotiating its Wafer Supply Agreement and bumping up capacity. Read more…

Hyperion Offers Snapshot of Quantum Computing Market

May 13, 2021

The nascent quantum computer (QC) market will grow 27 percent annually (CAGR) reaching $830 million in 2024 according to an update provided today by analyst fir Read more…

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although Read more…

IBM Debuts Qiskit Runtime for Quantum Computing; Reports Dramatic Speed-up

May 11, 2021

In conjunction with its virtual Think event, IBM today introduced an enhanced Qiskit Runtime Software for quantum computing, which it says demonstrated 120x spe Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Fast Pass Through (Some of) the Quantum Landscape with ORNL’s Raphael Pooser

May 7, 2021

In a rather remarkable way, and despite the frequent hype, the behind-the-scenes work of developing quantum computing has dramatically accelerated in the past f Read more…

IBM Research Debuts 2nm Test Chip with 50 Billion Transistors

May 6, 2021

IBM Research today announced the successful prototyping of the world's first 2 nanometer chip, fabricated with silicon nanosheet technology on a standard 300mm Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 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…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl Read more…

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu 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…

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

Quantum Computer Start-up IonQ Plans IPO via SPAC

March 8, 2021

IonQ, a Maryland-based quantum computing start-up working with ion trap technology, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) merger a Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD Launches Epyc ‘Milan’ with 19 SKUs for HPC, Enterprise and Hyperscale

March 15, 2021

At a virtual launch event held today (Monday), AMD revealed its third-generation Epyc “Milan” CPU lineup: a set of 19 SKUs -- including the flagship 64-core, 280-watt 7763 part --  aimed at HPC, enterprise and cloud workloads. Notably, the third-gen Epyc Milan chips achieve 19 percent... Read more…

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

The History of Supercomputing vs. COVID-19

March 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater challenge to the high-performance computing community than any before. HPCwire's coverage of the supercomputing response t Read more…

Microsoft to Provide World’s Most Powerful Weather & Climate Supercomputer for UK’s Met Office

April 22, 2021

More than 14 months ago, the UK government announced plans to invest £1.2 billion ($1.56 billion) into weather and climate supercomputing, including procuremen Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire