Officials Inaugurate NCAR's New Supercomputer at NWSC Ribbon-Cutting

VIPs cutting the ceremonial ribbon at Derecho inauguration

Officials inaugurate the new Derecho supercomputer with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Political, science, academic, and business leaders formally inaugurated NCAR’s new supercomputer August 18 at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC). Derecho will provide researchers across the country with an important new tool to advance understanding of the atmosphere and other Earth system processes.

Among the dignitaries who participated in the ribbon cutting were Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon; Wyoming Senator John Barrasso; Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR); Everette Joseph, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and Ed Seidel, president of the University of Wyoming; and top officials with the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Joining these dignitaries was Wyoming high school student Cael Arbogast, who named the computer as part of a Wyoming-wide contest in 2021.

Derecho is a 19.87-petaflops system, which is about 3.5 times the speed of the scientific computing performed by the previous NWSC supercomputer, Cheyenne. The new supercomputer is also more energy efficient, using only about 40% more electricity than Cheyenne. This is partly because Derecho’s graphics processing units (GPUs), deliver up to six times the performance per watt of energy than CPUs.

Derecho is the first NWSC supercomputer to include a significant number of GPUs, with 382 NVIDIA A100 GPUs providing 20% of its sustained computing capability. GPUs are more effective for newly developed artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques because they perform large numbers of computations simultaneously on one accelerator, resulting in lower power usage and less hardware for the same number of operations.

Funding for the new system, which cost about $35 million, was provided by NSF, NCAR’s sponsor. The NWSC is funded by NSF and by the state of Wyoming through an appropriation to the University of Wyoming. Additional partners include Cheyenne LEADS, the Wyoming Business Council, Black Hills Energy, and UCAR, which manages NCAR on behalf of NSF. Derecho was built by HPE and was installed earlier this year at the NWSC.

Scientists across the country are starting to use Derecho to study phenomena ranging from wildfires and hurricanes to solar storms. Their findings will help better protect society from environmental disasters, lead to more reliable projections of long-term weather patterns, and improve weather and climate predictions that are needed by vulnerable communities and critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture and transportation.

For more details and photographs, see the story at UCAR News.