Table of contents | Director's message | Highlights | Divisional accomplishments | Community service | Education and Outreach | Publications | Staff, visitors, collaborators | NCAR ASR 2002

SCD Director's message

SCD Director Al Kellie
Al Kellie

SCD completed Fiscal Year 2002 having achieved significant progress, innovation, and enhanced services.

We made substantial progress in building on the foundation of last year's supercomputing hardware acquisitions, more than doubling the size and computational capability of blackforest, our main production system.

We made innovations in our networking and mass storage infrastructure, resulting in greater reliability and data integrity for our users.

And perhaps most important, we enhanced services in data analysis, visualization, web-based utilities, and irreplaceable atmospheric and oceanographic research data -- all of which contributed to the advancement of our community's research agendas.

SCD has made great strides in realizing the goals laid out in our strategic plans, and we are moving toward a broad user-centric orientation that maximizes user productivity.

This annual scientific report documents a wide range of activities supporting NCAR's scientific mission. Two merit special attention: the Phase I upgrade of blackforest (NCAR's Advanced Research Computing System, ARCS), and the successful negotiation, staffing, and progress made on the Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) project.

Phase I ARCS

Early in FY2002, SCD oversaw expansion of the IBM SP cluster system named blackforest, more than doubling its size to 1,308 POWER3 processors. The upgraded system went into production in December 2001, and is accelerating research in global and regional climate change, droughts, short and long-range weather prediction and warnings, wildland fires, turbulence, atmospheric chemistry, space weather, and other critical areas.

Shortly after the blackforest upgrade, SCD took delivery of a new IBM p690 system with 16 POWER4 processors. This machine was used for testing and system development in preparation for a large IBM Cluster 1600 system scheduled for delivery in October 2002. To support the increasing number of high-performance systems in our Computer Room, we improved space utilization and made significant enhancements to the room's electrical power distribution, air chilling, and airflow handling.

Multi-institutional collaboration on the Earth System Modeling Framework

The Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) project is building software infrastructure for the nation's leading climate, weather, and data-assimilation applications. Collaborators include:

    • SCD, the Climate and Global Dynamics Division, and the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division (NCAR)
    • The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
    • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan
    • Argonne National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory (Department of Energy)
    • The Data Assimilation Office and the NASA Season-to-Interannual Prediction Project (Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

The three-year project is being funded by NASA's Earth Science Technology Office at a level of $9,800,000. Of this, $2,600,000 will go to NCAR SCD for implementing the core software.

In FY2002, the ESMF collaboration produced an exhaustive requirements specification, an architecture document, and a synthetic validation suite. An initial prototype of the framework will be available in FY2003.

SCD is proud to be the home of the implementation team for this landmark effort, and looks forward to its success and growth.

Detailed information about ESMF is provided in this report and at the ESMF website.

Many other notable achievements

While the preceding accomplishments rank high on our list of achievements, SCD staff have had a remarkable year making improvements to better serve our atmospheric science community.

  • SCD implemented a new "class of service" for Mass Storage System (MSS) files that allows the owner of an MSS file to select new file duplication options. A user can now elect to have a single copy of an MSS file created rather than two. As the number of MSS files written using this attribute increases, the total amount of data stored in the MSS will decrease proportionally -- freeing up additional space within the MSS. Moreover, those files are now written directly to tape media, reducing the cost of having to later migrate those files from disk farm to tape.
  • NCAR's new Visualization Lab and Access Grid, located at the Mesa Lab and managed by SCD, became fully operational in FY2002. It has become an indispensable resource for distance collaboration; distributed meetings, presentations, and training; and educational events. This new resource has enabled our community to accelerate its interactions in a remarkable way, while at the same time reducing travel burdens of cost and time. There are intangible benefits as well: NCAR is an active and visible player "on the Grid," and we're positioned to proliferate the technology throughout our organization and into the community.
  • In preparation for Phase II of the ARCS installation, which will occur in early FY2003, SCD developed and implemented plans to augment the Computer Room infrastructure. Operation of the hardware for this next ARCS phase will double our electricity consumption from 300 kW to over 600 kW and generate sufficient heat to require the addition of a new 250-ton chiller. Augmenting both the electrical power and air handling for this upgrade was ongoing during FY2002, and proceeded in parallel with production computing activities -- without disrupting those services.
  • Refinements to consulting, documentation, and education and training activities provide valuable assistance to our user community in all phases of program development, helping to mitigate problems with user applications and system software and hardware. Our evolving websites and outreach publications continue to highlight the central role SCD plays in furthering the science performed at NCAR.

As you read through this report of SCD's accomplishments, I hope you share our sense of excitement and progress as we move forward. We will continue to provide leadership in those areas that directly improve NCAR's ability to advance our scientific community's research agendas. We look forward to the challenge and enthusiastically embrace this responsibility.

-- Al Kellie

Table of contents | Director's message | Highlights | Divisional accomplishments | Community service | Education and Outreach | Publications | Staff, visitors, collaborators | NCAR ASR 2002