Charting the course for '98

NCAR will see increase in computing capacity to 20 Gflops . . .


by Bill Buzbee








FY97 was a particularly challenging year for SCD. In the spring of 1996, we completed a procurement that would have brought one of the world's most powerful supercomputers to NCAR: the NEC SX-4.

That machine would have enabled U.S. atmospheric scientists to address problems which are currently intractable and which will remain intractable until comparable computing power is available. Also, NCAR would have been able to provide U.S. atmospheric scientists with computing capability comparable with what their international peers will have during the remainder of the decade.

Strategies for FY97

In the summer of 1996, the Department of Commerce (DOC) launched an anti-dumping investigation centered on Japanese supercomputers. At that point, NCAR realized that the NEC SX-4 might never be available in the U.S., and thus adopted the following strategy at the beginning of FY97:

  1. Prepare to switch to highly parallel, Distributed Shared Memory (DSM) microprocessor systems, e.g., SGI Origin, HP Exemplar, etc.

  2. Continue acquiring U.S.-manufactured Parallel Vector Processor (PVP) systems

  3. Seek partnerships with national and international organizations

    In keeping with (1), during FY97 NCAR acquired a 64-processor DSM (sioux) for test and evaluation. In keeping with (2), during FY97 NCAR installed two PVPs -- a Cray C90 (antero) and a Cray J9se (ouray).

Strategies for FY98

Following the DOC's August 1997 determination of dumping, NCAR has terminated the procurement of the NEC SX-4 and plans to continue with the above strategy. Specifically, in FY98, NCAR will:

  • Dedicate sioux (a 64-processor Hewlett Packard DSM) to the community

  • Acquire a 128-processor SGI Origin DSM system for the Climate Simulation Laboratory (CSL)

  • Acquire another J9 (twin to ouray) vector system for the community

I am hopeful that all of this equipment will be in production by the end of April. The SGI Origin will give the CSL the equivalent of another C90. Sioux plus another vector system will at least double the community computing capacity. Overall, SCD computing capacity will be approximately 20 gigaflops once these additions are complete.

Applying for computing resources

If you are interested in using the CSL, please check "Climate Simulation Lab" under "Computing Resources" on the SCD Web page ( for information on submission of proposals.

If you would like to use the NCAR community resources, please check "Applying for Computing Resources" under "General User Information" on the SCD Web page.

Looking ahead

Because of the increasing rate of change in computing technology, there is a steady shortening of the average half-life of both products and manufacturers. Consequently, NCAR will operate DSM equipment from two manufacturers during FY98 and based on that experience, as well as developments in the marketplace during FY98, acquire additional DSM capability in FY99.


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