NOAA unveils Linux 'Jet' stream
- By Colleen O'Hara
- May 01, 2000
The first Linux-based supercomputer to win competitive federal government
procurement is also a big step forward for weather prediction.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week officially
unveiled the speedy new supercomputer dubbed "Jet" at the Forecast Systems
Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.
NOAA will use the supercomputer to develop and test improved numerical
weather models that form the basis of weather forecasting.
"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 more than 5 trillion arithmetic computations
Don Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer of 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.
MacDonald said that 40 percent of the new supercomputer's processing
power will be used for weather prediction models and 40 percent for the
North American Atmospheric Observing System, which is a program to design
an improved upper-air observing system.
The remaining 20 percent will be available for other NOAA research labs
to use for developing ocean models and other modeling efforts.