June 19, 2019 — In mid-July, Mississippi State University will begin operating a NOAA-funded, newly installed high-performance computer (HPC) called Orion to support NOAA research and development in environmental, weather and climate modeling, and autonomous vehicle design and operation.
The new computer will also be used by research scientists and students working with NOAA, MSU and the Northern Gulf Institute, NOAA’s cooperative institute based at MSU that includes five other academic partners in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama.
NOAA provided MSU with grants totaling $22 million over the last two years to purchase, install and now run the new supercomputer. The Dell-EMC system will add 5 petaflops of computing capacity to NOAA’s existing research high performance computing capacity of 10.5 petaflops, currently operating at centers in Boulder, Colorado; Fairmont, West Virginia; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Princeton, New Jersey.
Supercomputer to Advance Weather, Climate, Ocean Modeling
“We’re excited to support the development of this powerhouse of computing capacity at Mississippi State,” said Craig McLean, NOAA assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. “Orion will join NOAA’s network of computer centers around the country, and boost NOAA’s ability to conduct cutting-edge research to advance weather, climate and ocean forecasting products vital to protecting American lives and property.”
Located in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park adjacent to the Starkville, Mississippi campus, Orion is MSU’s largest supercomputer. It is nearly 10 times faster than the previous computing system at MSU and is able to conduct 5 quadrillion calculations per second as compared to the 593 trillion calculations per second capability of the previous system.
Earlier this week, Orion was ranked the fourth fastest HPC system at a U.S. academic institution with an overall worldwide ranking of 62 for the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems by the Top500 Supercomputer Site list.
“Orion helps strengthen our historic ties to NOAA as host of a cooperative institute and builds upon the university’s pioneering work in high performance computing technologies used to solve real- world problems,” said Trey Breckenridge, director of high performance computing at Mississippi State’s High Performance Computing Collaboratory.
Orion has 72,000 processing cores and nearly 350 terabytes of Random Access Memory, or RAM. The new system takes up 28 computer cabinets, each the size of an industrial refrigerator.
“The partnership with MSU provides greater research opportunities with our collaborators, and provides millions of compute hours to enhance NOAA’s scientific research,” said Zach Goldstein, NOAA Chief Information Officer and Director of High Performance Computing and Communication.