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NEW SGI SUPERCOMPUTERS ENABLE NASA CLIMATE ASSESSMENTS.

SGI (NYSE: SGI), Mountain View, Calif., has completed installation of the world's first 1,024-processor SGI Origin 3800 single-system image supercomputer at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and a separate 512-processor SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The new SGI Origin 3800 supercomputers are helping NASA to objectively evaluate the effects of natural and human activities on global climate.

From portraying the current climate more quantitatively to simulating future global-warming scenarios, NASA will provide a firmer basis for policy decisions using two new SGI supercomputers that are among the most powerful systems of their kind. NASA scientists can now evaluate the global impact of naturally occurring and human-induced activities on climate and better predict probable climate patterns in the future thanks to the patented SGI NUMAflex modular computing concept.

Up to a 10-fold improvement running earth science applications has been realized by both NASA Ames and NASA Goddard with this new architecture using optimization techniques and multilevel parallelism (MLP) software developed at NASA Ames. The performance gains achieved on the SGI systems will allow the United States to develop objective policies with regard to future large industrial activities, such as urban planning and examining alternative plans for urban development.

"The new 1,024-processor SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer at NASA Ames will lead to faster and better development of climate models for the earth science community, government and industry," said Bill Feiereisen, chief of the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility. "We have improved our ability to merge observed data and simulation by a factor of 10 with considerably greater increases in the core climate solver. Such a substantial increase in performance allows earth scientists to complete climate simulations in days rather than months, leading to a better understanding of how human activity has changed climate patterns."

For the past three years, NASA Ames and SGI have been testing the limits of single-system shared memory in which all processors share the supercomputer's memory as if it were a single entity in order to improve performance significantly over other clustered architectures. A series of joint research agreements between SGI and NASA Ames has resulted in SGI expanding the original SGI 2000 server series product offering from 128 to 512 CPUs and, most recently, expanding the SGI Origin 3000 server series product line from 512 to 1,024 CPUs.

"The new techniques have demonstrated a development path that will allow us to move forward to 100-fold performance improvements over the next few years," said Jim Taft, a NASA Ames researcher. "At these performance levels, we can begin to execute climate simulations at truly high resolution while taking advantage of the huge data streams emerging from the latest earth resources satellites."

To improve the prediction capabilities of the climate models, the 1,024-processor SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer at NASA Ames assimilates thousands of gigabytes of observational data from the whole earth to make a database to verify the physics of the computer model. NASA Ames then backs up a few years and runs the climate model to see how good its predictions are. The computer models can then be adjusted to improve their accuracy for future predictions.

A memorandum of agreement with NASA Ames placed a separate 512-processor SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer at NASA Goddard, which is only the second site in the world to put an SGI Origin 3800 system of this type into production.

"This collaboration between Goddard and Ames to acquire the latest supercomputing technology grants NASA scientists a significant new capability for understanding the intricacies of our planet's climate system," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar, associate administrator for the Office of Earth Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "For instance, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies has been able to complete in two months research that would have taken six months on its previous computing platform."

The primary user of the new SGI Origin 3800 supercomputer is Goddard's Data Assimilation Office (DAO), which is preparing for the Aqua satellite by building NASA's next-generation software for incorporating observations into global climate models. Data assimilation uses observations from satellites and other sources to define the physical processes that make up weather and climate.

"With the SGI Origin 3800 system, NASA will more than double the amount of data it ingests to 800,000 observations each day," said Dr. Richard B. Rood, DAO senior scientist and acting director of the NASA-NOAA Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation. "We will also integrate assimilation systems for several satellites so that, like the real earth, the impact of one type of data will be felt by another type of data."

The SGI Origin 3800 server's processing power, along with the MLP software that takes advantage of its unique memory design, will enable the DAO climate models to run more than four times faster and at double the resolution. Climate models divide the globe into a grid of stacked boxes, solving the relevant equations in each box and then assembling the full results. With a box only 1/2-degree wide (or 30 miles over the continental United States), the model will more faithfully represent atmospheric conditions worldwide for periods as long as 15 years.

"These advances will reduce uncertainties in the climate assessments that are an essential ingredient of the U.S. Global Change Research Program," Rood noted.

Using the new SGI Origin 3800, the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York will be better able to explore natural and human influences on the climate. GISS emphasizes the many not-yet-understood factors that contribute to global warming. The institute's climate studies focus on time scales ranging from a decade to a century.

"This more capable computer will allow us to employ more realistic representations of the global climate systems in our attempts to understand climate change that has already occurred and to predict climate change that will occur throughout the 21st century," said GISS Director Dr. James E. Hansen. "Our most pressing needs are to represent the full atmosphere, troposphere and stratosphere with adequate vertical resolution and to represent the ocean with better horizontal and vertical resolution. These improvements will be possible with the SGI Origin 3800 system."

About SGI Origin 3800 With the revolutionary NUMAflex computing model in the underlying system structure, SGI customers decide how much CPU, I/O, memory and disk infrastructure to add to SGI Origin 3800.

Every system component can be upgraded, maintained or redeployed independently, so the SGI Origin 3800 system can evolve as quickly as the customer's computing needs.

With the SGI NUMA architecture, the industry's most advanced, a customer can configure an SGI Origin 3800 system up to a single 1,024-processor shared memory system or use partitioning to divide it into as many as 32 partitions and run them as a tightly coupled cluster. Many application environments can improve availability by implementing a cluster of smaller partitions that can contain failures, leaving other partitions unaffected. Utilizing the ultralow-latency and ultrahigh-bandwidth NUMAlinkTM interconnect fabric as a communication vehicle, partitioning is an option that can deliver both high availability and high performance.

Built on the reliable SGI NUMA architecture and IRIX 6.5 operating system, SGI Origin 3800 servers work with your existing application software and are fully compatible with other IRIX OS-based workstations and servers. The applications you use every day transition effortlessly and perform better than ever. With the same familiar tools and operating system, you can integrate the series with no retraining. The SGI Origin 3800 server protects your investments thoroughly and ensures the availability of a wide range of open systems software into the future.

About SGI SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, is the world's leading provider of high-performance computing, complex data management and visualization products, services and solutions that enable its technical and creative customers to gain strategic and competitive advantages in their core businesses. Whether being used to design and build safer cars and airplanes, discover new medications and oil reserves, predict the weather, entertain us with thrilling movie special effects or provide mission-critical support for government and defense, SGI systems and expertise are empowering a world of innovation and discovery.

For more information, visit http://www.sgi.com or call 301-595-2618.
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Publication:Mainframe Computing
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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