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Unconventional Ways Supercomputers are Used

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Supercomputers power a diverse array of scientific research, including calculating the airflow of aircrafts, simulating the earth’s climate, producing data for hurricane predictions to help save communities, providing managers with the tools to make smarter production decisions . . . the possibilities are endless. Enough about the obvious though. In this first of an ongoing series of posts, I’d like to introduce you to some of the more unexpected ways supercomputers are having an impact on our lives.  Believe me, you may be surprised. #1: Ice Cream A team of scientists are using fluid dynamic applications to study the behavior of "soft matter," which incorporates any material considered soft, including ice cream. That’s … [Read more...]

NERSC’s “Edison” Unleashed

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Now that our new flagship supercomputer Edison, a 2.5-petaflop Cray® XC30™, has been in full production mode for a couple of months, it seems like a good time to check in and see how scientists are using it. At the top of the list of hours used are teams of scientists studying the fundamentals of the standard model of particle physics, the structure of the Earth's subsurface, clustering of matter in the early universe, fusion energy, clean combustion, how salts bind to water, nano-characteristics of catalysts, table-top accelerators, carbon sequestration, and extreme climate events. If that seems like a diverse and intriguing array of topics, that's because it is.  NERSC, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, … [Read more...]

MSU Turns to Liquid-Cooled Cluster Supercomputer

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Mississippi State University had a need for a powerful and efficient new primary supercomputing system for their High Performance Computing Collaboratory (HPC2) –  a coalition focused on advancing the state of the art in computational science and engineering using high performance computing. They chose the Cray® CS300™ liquid-cooled cluster supercomputer. Nicknamed "Shadow," MSU's new Cray CS300-LC cluster generates 316.1 teraflops of peak performance while using minimal energy. This efficiency is accomplished in part through a hybrid architecture featuring Intel® Xeon® processors and Intel® Xeon Phi™ coprocessors, and because the system uses warm water for cooling. Almost four years ago, the University installed its first … [Read more...]

What’s in a (Supercomputer) Name?

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Think “discovery” and you can see why NERSC, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, names their supercomputers after famous scientists and inventors. Operated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and serving the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, NERSC has a long history with high-end Cray supercomputers and using them to drive scientific discovery. Their latest Cray machine “Edison”, a Cray® XC30™ supercomputer named after Thomas Edison, has been up and running for much of 2013 with a formal dedication ceremony held last week at Berkeley Lab in California. Supercomputer predecessors at NERSC include “Hopper”, a Cray® XE6™ named after innovating computer scientist Grace Hopper, and … [Read more...]

When Applications Go Exascale — The CRESTA Project

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Seymour Cray, the pioneer of supercomputing, famously asked if you would rather plough a field with two strong oxen or 1024 chickens. The question has since been answered for us: power restrictions have driven CPU manufacturers away from "oxen" (powerful single-core devices) towards multi- and many-core "chickens." An exascale supercomputer will take this a leap further, connecting tens of thousands of many-core nodes, leaving application programmers with the challenge of efficiently harnessing the computing power of tens of millions of threads. This challenge is not just for the applications themselves, but everything underneath — from the operating and runtime systems, through the communication and scientific libraries to the … [Read more...]