NCAR Facility Targets Efficiency and Sustainability


The National Center for Atmospheric Research and IBM have teamed up to build the energy-efficient Yellowstone supercomputer for the Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, has selected IBM to provide components for its new high-efficiency supercomputing facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming, known as the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC).
The new system, named Yellowstone, runs on an IBM iDataPlex and is expected to be delivered early next year. Yellowstone consists of Intel Sandy Bridge EP processors and a Mellanox FDR InfiniBand full fat tree. It will have 149.2TB of memory, 74,592 processor cores, and a peak computational rate of 1.6 petaflops. Yellowstone’s central filesystem will have nearly 17PB of usable disk space.
The central file and data storage resource will consist of filesystem servers and storage devices that are linked to the data analysis and visualization (DAV) resources and to the supercomputer systems. The DAV resource is made up of two systems: one designed to facilitate large-scale data analysis and the other for parallel processing and visualization activities. According to the press announcement, this combination will dramatically improve capabilities central to NCAR’s mission, such as climate modeling, forecasting, and preservation of critical research data.
Additionally, the NWSC has aggressive goals for energy efficiency and sustainability. Upon completion, the center is anticipated to be 89 percent more efficient than typical data centers and up to 10 percent more efficient than other state-of-the-art facilities operating today.
The center’s design capitalizes on Wyoming’s climatology, which will allow for natural cooling 96 percent of the year, and on the availability of renewable energy resources. The NWSC will run on at least 10 percent renewable energy provided by a nearby wind farm. NCAR is pursuing LEED certification for the NWSC under the US Green Building Council certification system -- a standard for measuring and ranking building sustainability. The center’s website states that the NWSC is currently on track for LEED Gold certification.
NCAR’s Mesa Laboratory in Boulder currently houses NCAR’s supercomputing resources, with a history that dates back to one of the first supercomputers ever built, the Cray 1A.
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