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Supercomputer Services Group - History

CDC 6600Cray 1AIBM P575

Our History:

The Supercomputer Services Group (SSG) dates back to 1963. Over the years, the group has been known by various names, but it has always provided system and software engineering services necessary to support the management of the NCAR supercomputers.

The first supercomputer at NCAR was a CDC 3600. With circuitry designed by Seymour Cray, the CDC 3600 had a clock speed of 0.7 MHz, 32 kilobytes of memory, and a peak performance of 1.3 MFLOPS (Million Floating Point Operations per Second). It was decommissioned in 1966.

In 1977, NCAR took delivery of the very first production Cray supercomputer (the Cray 1-A Serial Number 3), which can still be seen just outside the NCAR Mesa Lab computer room. In its day, the Cray 1-A had a clock speed of 80 MHz, 8 megabytes of memory, and a peak performance of 0.16 GFLOPS (Billion Floating Point Operations per Second). It was decommissioned in 1989.

In 1990, the architecture of the NCAR supercomputers began to change from custom-built, single operating system, vector machines to commodity-based, multiple operating system, clusters.

Today, there are nine supercomputers managed by SSG at NCAR. All are clusters. In total, they provide just over 21 TFLOPS (Trillion Floating Point Operations per Second) of peak performance and consume just over 840 kW of power.

The average life of a supercomputer at NCAR is three years, so change is a way of life in SSG. Currently, there are five full-time software engineers in the group with well over 100 years of combined experience in working with complex system and software engineering environments.

What the future of supercomputing holds is anyone's guess. That NCAR and SSG will be on the forefront is a certainty.