NOAA unveils Linux supercomputer
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Apr 27, 2000
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday officially
unveiled the first Linux-based supercomputer to win competitive federal
NOAA's Forecast Systems Laboratory in Boulder,
Colo., will use the new supercomputer dubbed "Jet" for its speed to
develop and test improved numerical weather models that form the basis of
weather forecasting. Faster, more accurate weather models will ultimately
mean better weather forecasts.
"This is a huge step forward for weather prediction," said Sandy MacDonald,
director of FSL. "This supercomputer is really going to do two things for
us: It will help us figure out how to use these types of computers in a
better way. [And] it will make weather forecasts better."
High Performance Technologies Inc. developed Jet, which is based on
the open-source operating system Linux and clusters of Compaq Computer Corp.'s
Alpha workstations. NOAA awarded the estimated $17 million contract to HPTI
in September 1999. HPTI beat out other industry supercomputer giants, including
Currently, Jet consists of 276 Alpha processors tied together using
a system called Myrinet, which allows the computers to talk to each other
simultaneously while working on a problem. By 2002, Jet will have 1,500
processors and will process over 5 trillion arithmetic computations per
Don Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer at HPTI, said
it took "courage" for NOAA to select unproven technology. "I think the risk
paid off," he said. "The result is a system that is [ranked] 34 in being
the fastest supercomputer in the world. I assure you that [FSL's] budget
does not rank anywhere near the top 100 in the world."
Using commercial off-the-shelf hardware products is the main reason
HPTI could offer the supercomputer at a relatively low price, Fitzpatrick
said. "None of this is custom-built," he said.