New NASA Supercomputer Will Play Critical Role as Scientists Simulate Climate, Weather and Solar Activity


IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a new supercomputer that NASA scientists will use to simulate and better understand Earth's climate and weather, the planet's relationship with the sun, and the evolution of cosmic phenomena. It will also play an essential role in developing methods to analyze the rapidly increasing amount of data the agency collects from Earth- and space-observing satellites.

The NASA Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS) has selected an IBM iDataPlex cluster-style supercomputer capable of performing 42 trillion calculations per second (teraflops). The computer harnesses 1,024 quad-core Intel Xeon(R) processors in an all-new IBM design that dramatically improves energy efficiency and cooling requirements. The processors are being integrated with NCCS's existing "Discover" Xeon-based cluster for a combined performance of 67 teraflops.

"By nearly tripling Discover's performance, NASA scientists will be able to run models with higher resolution and greater fidelity to the underlying physical phenomena," said Dr. Phil Webster, NCCS Project Manager and Chief of the Computational and Information Sciences and Technology Office at Goddard Space Flight Center. "IBM's iDataPlex solution for NCCS will provide critical compute power for current and future NASA Earth and space science studies." Computational projects running on Discover include projections of Earth's 21st century climate, a reanalysis of global weather observations taken since the satellite era began in 1979, modeling of solar activity that affects weather and communications, and complex simulations of merging black holes and solar system formation.

iDataPlex: Supercomputer Power in Energy-Saving Package

iDataPlex is an all-new IBM server announced in April that can be used to build stand-alone high-performance compute clusters or to more easily integrate supercomputer power into existing data centers. iDataPlex was specifically designed to streamline data center operations and shave power costs for companies that operate tens of thousands of servers.

Part of IBM's "Big Green" initiative, iDataPlex maximizes performance per watt with innovative cooling techniques such as a rear-door heat exchanger. This liquid-cooled panel on the back of the unit can eliminate the need for computer-room air conditioners, allowing for room-temperature operation. A single iDataPlex 1U server packs five times the compute power of a typical server while consuming 40 percent less power.

"As the demand for supercomputer-style power grows, IBM is packaging the technology in new ways for users that might not have the space, power and resources required to build traditional-style clusters," said Dave Turek, VP of Deep Computing for IBM. "iDataPlex makes it easier to add high-performance computing cycles to data centers, even for sophisticated supercomputer users such as NASA. The agency's selection is a vote of confidence for the new paradigm represented by iDataPlex and a continuation of an historic partnership between IBM and NASA."

NCCS's iDataPlex cluster features 4,096 Xeon compute cores connected by DDR InfiniBand. "This initial deployment meshes well with our strategic roadmap and is straightforward to integrate with the existing Discover cluster," said Dr. Dan Duffy, NCCS Chief Architect. "The IBM system allows NCCS to expand the number of processors available to our users without dramatically increasing power and cooling requirements." This efficiency will become even more important as NCCS plans to at least double the processor count in its iDataPlex cluster in 2009.

In addition to providing a consistent user environment on Discover, the underlying iDataPlex system software includes IBM's xCAT cluster management software and IBM's General Parallel File System, the HPC industry's most mature and functional parallel file system.

NCCS, located at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is a NASA High-End Computing Program facility providing a full range of computing and data services to scientists throughout the agency's Science Mission Directorate. More information about NCCS is available at: http://www.nccs.nasa.gov/ More information about NASA and agency programs is at: http://www.nasa.gov/

Original iDataPlex press release, photos and video available here: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/23991.wss

IBM is the supercomputing industry leader with 232 systems on the current TOP500 list representing a wide variety of platforms and technology. More information on IBM supercomputers is available at: http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/deepcomputing/

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