AP News

Final testing under way for Wyoming supercomputer


CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Final testing is being done on a National Center for Atmospheric Research supercomputer on the outskirts of Cheyenne that will be used for climate modeling and other Earth sciences.

Research is expected to begin this fall on the new computer, called Yellowstone, which has enough power to rank among the top dozen or so fastest supercomputers in the world.

So how fast is it, exactly?

The computer will run at a speed of up to 1.5 petaflops, or 1.5 quadrillion operations per second. Put another way: If you counted one number per second, it would take a lot longer than your entire lifetime or anybody else's to get all the way up to 1.5 quadrillion. Try more than 47 million years.

The roughly $30 million IBM machine fills much of a 153,000-square-foot, custom-built facility.

The Boulder, Colo.-based National Center for Atmospheric Research already has lined up 11 initial research projects that will get time on its machine starting this fall, center spokesman David Hosansky said.

One of the upcoming projects will model air movement inside hurricanes and tornadoes. Another will examine how weather and air quality could change in North America in the years ahead.

First, the machine needs to pass its final tests. The process is more complicated than trying out a new laptop.

"These complex systems need extensive testing and analysis before we could formally accept it," Hosansky said Wednesday.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research hopes to wrap up testing and accept the supercomputer in October. A ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Gov. Matt Mead and National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh is scheduled for Oct. 15.

The supercomputer is 30 times more powerful than the machine currently in use at the center's Mesa Laboratory in Boulder.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research has a long history of using supercomputers. One of the world's first, the Cray 1-A, crunched numbers at the center from 1977 to 1989. The Yellowstone supercomputer will be 9.7 million times faster with 3.4 million times the disk capacity and 19 million times the central memory size of the Cray 1-A, according to NCAR.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The Wyoming Legislature committed $21 million for the supercomputer project in 2007.


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