NCAR Fires Up Liquid-cooled Power6 Supercomputer

Boulder (CO) - The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) announced that it has taken delivery of its "Bluefire" supercomputer, a new system that is powered by 4.7 GHz IBM Power6 processors to provide new insights in weather forecasting and climate change research.

Bluefire is the first installed supercomputer system based on IBM’s Power 575 Hydro-Cluster, which is touted as a new class of "energy-efficient" HPC system. The supercomputer runs 4064 4.7 GHz IBM Power6 processors (127 nodes with 32 dual-core CPUs each). In total there is almost 12 TB of system memory: 48 nodes include 4 GB of shared memory per processor and 69 nodes 2 GB for each chip. The storage capacity is 150 TB.

NCAR said that the system performance peaks at 76.4 TFlops, whereas 177 nodes are dedicated to batch processing and achieve about 70.4 TFlops. Bluefire will replace three supercomputers with an aggregate peak speed of 20 TFlops and is expected to provide supercomputing support for researchers at NCAR and other organizations through 2011.

What makes Bluefire special is a new kind of liquid-cooling system that the organization claims is about 33% more efficient that air-cooled system. Copper tubes carry coolant from a heat exchanger below the nodes over the processors and then returns to the heat exchanger within a closed loop. A separate chilled water loop connects the heat exchangers in each of Bluefire’s 11 closets with two 1500-gallon chilled water reservoirs.

NCAR said that scientists across the country will be able to use the system to "accelerate research into climate change, including future patterns of precipitation and drought around the world, changes to agriculture and growing seasons, and the complex influence of global warming on hurricanes. Researchers also will use it to improve weather forecasting models so society can better anticipate where and when dangerous storms may strike."

Bluefire will be listed on the next Top 500 supercomputer list and would have been ranked on position #17 on the November 2007 list.