NOAA buys $34 million supercomputer

NOAA buys $34 million supercomputer

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

OCT. 2—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week awarded a $34 million contract to Raytheon Co. to build a high-performance computer for hurricane forecasting.

The system will consist of two SGI Origin 3800 clusters, said Bruce Ross, deputy director of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., which will house the new supercomputer.

One eight-node cluster, which NOAA officials call the large-scale cluster, will run huge fluid dynamics simulations of atmospheric and oceanic behavior. Each node will hold 128 400-MHz Mips R12000 processors, Ross said.

The other cluster, consisting of two 64-processor nodes, will perform statistical analysis and visualization routines on the results, Ross said. The smaller cluster will serve as a front end to the hierarchical storage management system that is also part of the contract.

The supercomputer's storage system will consist of three robotic tape silos from Storage Technology Corp. of Louisville, Colo. Initially the archive will hold 500T of data, but Ross said capacity will be increased to 2 petabytes, or 2,000T, by September 2003.

Scientists will use the supercomputer to conduct simulations that ultimately will improve the forecasting of hurricane movements and changes in storm intensity, Ross said.

NOAA is leasing the large-scale cluster and a portion of the analysis cluster from Raytheon's division in Garland, Texas, and acquiring the remaining hardware through a lease-to-purchase arrangement, Ross said.

The base contract with Raytheon runs through the end of fiscal 2003, Ross said. According to the contract schedule, the large-scale system will be upgraded to 10 nodes, each with 128 700-MHz R16000 processors, in June 2002.

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