NCAR Prepares for Derecho, Its Third-Generation Weather and Climate Supercomputer

By Oliver Peckham

September 29, 2021

Derechos, the namesake of the new supercomputer coming to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), are fast-moving, widespread bands of thunderstorms. Indeed, NCAR itself is moving quickly and ambitiously with the new system – its third major installation since 2012. Irfan Elahi, director of NCAR’s high-performance computing division, recently spoke to HPCwire about the development and timeline for Derecho, as well as plans further into the future.

The nuts and bolts

First, the specs: Derecho, built by HPE, will be water-cooled and predominantly powered by third-generation AMD Epyc Milan CPUs and Nvidia’s 40GB A100 GPUs, with 2,488 CPU-only dual-socket nodes (256GB of memory per node) and 82 single-socket heterogeneous nodes (four A100s and 512GB of memory per node). In total, the system is equipped with 692TB of total memory, 328 A100 GPUs and 5,058 Milan CPUs, all connected by HPE Slingshot v11 networking.

This combined hardware will deliver 19.87 peak petaflops – more than triple the performance of Derecho’s predecessor, Cheyenne (5.34 peak petaflops). Cheyenne, installed in 2016, was itself preceded by the 1.26-peak petaflops Yellowstone system in 2012.

The Cheyenne system. Image courtesy of NCAR.

Derecho’s firepower will be deployed in service of all things atmospheric and many things environmental, with Elahi noting applications ranging from severe weather (thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes) and climate change to water availability, wildfires, renewable energy, subsurface flow of oil and gas, solar storms and more. “Mainly the supercomputer will enable research that will lead to more detailed and useful prediction capabilities which will have significant societal benefit,” he said, “especially by getting more resilient to climate change.”

A gathering storm

HPE’s win was announced in January of this year, but plans for Derecho had been in the works for years prior. “We kicked off this project in … late summer 2018, and we started by doing a workload analysis study,” Elahi said. “We also then created a panel … and I think that it had 43 different members – diverse both in terms of gender [and] ethnicity but also in subject matter expertise, because we wanted to … look at this subject matter expertise across the earth systems sciences, and we worked with the Science Requirement Advisory Panel to get their requirements[.]”

Through this process, NCAR developed a suite of benchmarks for measuring a new system, which was then referred to as NWSC-3 after the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputer Center (NWSC) where NCAR’s supercomputers have been housed. With the benchmarks in hand, NCAR put out an RFI for the system, working with “four or five” potential vendors, including through a workshop that brought together researchers and vendors to strategize for system-building. After the RFP was issued and the dust settled, Elahi said that NCAR selected for the best value – not the lowest cost – and landed on HPE.

Updating the forecast

Derecho is still, however, a little ways off. First, a test system — Gust — will launch around February of 2022. Then, Elahi said, “Derecho itself is going to be delivered sometime mid-March – the first quarter of next year.” Once it’s installed and tested – a six- to seven-week process, he said – NCAR will open the system to its inaugural external users. These users will come from the Accelerated Science Discovery (ASD) program, which is soliciting proposals from researchers whose projects involve “actionable science” of relevance to NCAR’s core objectives. These ASD users, Elahi explained, would help beta test the system for a couple of months over the summer before its wider launch and help NCAR to push itself into the next generation of supercomputing. “The whole idea about ASD is these new, upcoming applications,” he said.

“After ASD, we will open it to all of the user community,” Elahi continued. However, Cheyenne – which Elahi noted has been a remarkably reliable system, with just one power outage over the last few years – will continue running until “sometime in late December of 2022.” “In order to help our users transition and migrate to the new environment, we want to provide them an overlap of six months,” Elahi said.

Derecho will be housed in the NWSC datacenter, which Elahi said was LEED Gold certified. “The most important thing, I think, is application energy efficiency,” he said, speaking to the sustainability of the new system. “Because … growth in peak or sustained computing capability is just one thing – but power efficiency is another.” So, he said, Derecho will produce around three to three and a half times more flops per watt compared to Cheyenne.

Looking further into the future, Elahi noted that computer processing was stagnating, pointing instead to technologies like accelerators, GPUs, FPGAs and AI as the sources of greater computing power and efficiency. And, he said, NCAR would be looking to push the efficiency angle even harder for its fourth system. “One of the things we want to do for our next system is also to look at carbon footprint and sustainability as a specification,” he said.

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!

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…

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…

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…

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 province in Pavia, Italy), and delivered “as-a-service” via H 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…

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…

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…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

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…

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…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire