NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center commissioned

This end-FY2011 photo shows the office area of the completed NWSC. Construction of the facility was declared substantially complete in August 2011 and building commissioning began in September 2011. When operations start in mid-FY2012, NWSC will house one of the world’s fastest supercomputers for scientific research and a premier data archival facility that will preserve extensive climate history records. NWSC will enable NCAR to support critical Earth System sciences research through high-performance computing for decades.

Construction and commissioning of the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) was completed in October 2011, on schedule and within the planned budget for the project. UCAR accepted the building and began preparing for the installation of its first supercomputer.

NWSC construction began in June 2010. H+L Architecture designed the facility, and Saunders Construction converted the plans to reality. Located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, NWSC was designed for sustainability and flexibility so it can be adapted to future technologies and the changing requirements of scientific computing. NWSC will serve scientists researching weather, climate, oceanography, solar physics, space weather, computational science, energy production, and carbon sequestration.

At the start of operations in 2012, NWSC will house one of the world’s fastest supercomputers for scientific research, as well as a premier data archival facility that will preserve valuable research data including extensive climate history records. NWSC will also deliver data analysis and visualization services to the scientific community, and its high-performance networks will provide full access to its world-class resources.

During FY2011, CISL executed and substantially completed the equipment procurement process for which it has been preparing since FY2008. This procurement’s resource specifications were driven by NCAR and community science requirements and informed by input from the science goals in the NCAR Strategic Plan, the NWSC Science Justification, the CISL Strategic Plan, the NCAR-Wyoming Partnership, CISL user surveys, and a major workflow study conducted by CISL. The procurement subcontract specified a 1.5 PFLOPS high-performance computing system with 30 times the workload throughput of NCAR’s current Bluefire supercomputer, centralized filesystem and data storage (CFDS) resources with 15 times the sustained I/O bandwidth and 12 times the capacity of CISL’s current system, and combined data analysis and visualization (DAV) systems that will provide a 20-fold increase in CISL’s dedicated DAV resources. Initial equipment delivery will commence in early calendar year 2012, and production computing operations are currently expected to begin at NWSC in mid-2012. Developed and managed by NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL), NWSC will help advance scientific research into the Earth-Sun System.

The 153,000-square-foot facility represents an important upgrade from NCAR’s Mesa Lab computing facility, not only in terms of capability, capacity, and space available, but also because of its “future proof” design. NWSC is based on a modular concept that will allow for future expansion. It also takes into account how technology may evolve over time, and has infrastructure that provides a variety of options for medium- and long-term equipment installations. This flexibility and adaptability simplifies future upgrades and increases their cost-effectiveness.

Raised floors are key to the facility’s flexible design, allowing the computing systems, electrical supply, and cooling to be positioned and controlled for optimal energy use. The raised floor is vented so air can be circulated as needed to the systems. NWSC’s design takes full advantage of Cheyenne’s elevation and cool, dry climate by employing ambient air to cool the facility nearly year round, significantly reducing total energy use.

Environmental stewardship is a core value of CISL, NCAR, and UCAR. Designed specifically for scientific supercomputing, NWSC integrates best practices for energy efficiency and sustainability in a computational data center. Numerous innovations make the facility approximately four times more energy efficient than NCAR’s current Mesa Lab computing facility. Almost 92 percent of the energy consumed by NWSC will go directly to powering the supercomputers, and wind energy will supply at least 10 percent of its total electricity needs. When it begins operation, NWSC is projected to be nearly 90 percent more energy efficient than typical data centers and significantly more energy efficient than today’s top centers. NCAR is also pursuing LEED certification for NWSC under the U.S. Green Building Council certification system, a recognized standard for measuring and ranking building sustainability. NWSC is currently on track for LEED Gold certification.