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New supercomputer dedicated for open scientific research

Submitted by Debra Damron
Phone: 907-450-8662

02/26/09

The president and chief executive officer of worldwide supercomputer manufacturer Cray Inc. will join officials at the University of Alaska Fairbanks March 5 at 10:30 a.m. to dedicate the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center's newest supercomputer, a Cray XT5 named Pingo. The virtual ribbon-cutting event will be webcast live from www.uaf.edu/museum/educate/aea.

"The addition of Pingo almost quadruples the center's capacity to solve computationally intensive problems of great interest to the state and the nation," said ARSC director Frank Williams.

Pingo will allow ARSC to expand studies of atmospheric phenomena such as those that rely on modeling how weather influences volcanic ash transport. Such studies can be used to alert aircraft flying northern polar routes and protect the health and safety of people on the ground. Pingo will also help researchers develop advanced tools for Arctic-specific, high-resolution forecasting to including models of smoke dispersion from wildland fires and the effects of wildfires on the global climate.

"The installation of advanced supercomputing systems at UAF increases Alaska's competitive edge in providing high-performance computing resources to a worldwide community of researchers," Williams said. "Having Cray president and CEO Peter Ungaro here to help us celebrate the latest acquisition of leading-edge supercomputer technology for ARSC is a milestone."

ARSC's first supercomputer, a four-processor Cray Y-MP named Denali, came online in 1993. At that time, a Cray was considered one of the fastest supercomputers in the world. Today, with its 3,456 processor cores on 432 nodes, Pingo provides approximately 31.8 teraflops of peak computing power, which means it can perform more than 30 trillion arithmetic calculations per second. Pingo has 13.5 terabytes of memory and 150 terabytes of shared high-speed storage.

The new Cray XT5 replaces Iceberg, ARSC's 800 processor IBM Power 4+ supercomputer. ARSC also operates Midnight, a 2,312 processor Sun Opteron cluster.

ARSC is the sole provider of open-research computing capabilities for the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program. Supercomputers at ARSC are acquired through the DoD HPC modernization program.

HPCMP has six DoD Supercomputing Resource Centers throughout the country: two in Mississippi and one each in Maryland, Ohio, Alaska and Hawaii. ARSC is the only DSRC in the program that is not affiliated with a branch of the military. Supercomputing resources at ARSC are used by researchers within the U.S. Defense Department, the University of Alaska and other organizations throughout the world to advance scientific discovery for national competitiveness, global security and economic success.

In addition to atmospheric studies, projects include creating models that predict the force and direction of tsunami waves, marine ecosystem changes and their effects on the Alaska fishing industry or the potential for ice-free summers in the Arctic.

ARSC provides high-performance computing systems, data storage systems, visualization, software, security and high-bandwidth communications in support of research identified as critical state and national priorities. ARSC computational scientists and HPC systems specialists provide training for new and existing users, tailored consulting and support for successful use of ARSC resources to address computing needs beyond the capabilities of conventional computers.

ARSC is an active collaborator with HPC users and parallel computing experts worldwide to provide early adoption and assessment of software tools. Outreach efforts include student and intern programs in computational science, and hosting a wide range of public, academic, scientific and school tours at the center's Discovery Lab.

ARSC has a history of naming supercomputing systems with arctic themes. A pingo is an earth-covered ice hill formed by the upward expansion of underground ice. Pingos tend to form in permafrost environments and can reach heights of up to 230 feet.

CONTACT: Frank Williams, ARSC director, at 907-450-8618 or williams@arsc.edu. Debra Damron, ARSC communications group lead, at 907-450-8662 or damron@arsc.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Reporters wishing to attend the event in person should contact Damron at the above number. The virtual ribbon cutting will begin at 10:30 a.m. at www.uaf.edu/museum/educate/aea. Click on the Channel 2 Live Events link.

ON THE WEB: ARSC's five-minute computational science feature "Partners in Discovery" is available for viewing at www.arsc.edu/news/08promo.html.

DD/2-26-09/112-09

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