NASA installs Linux supercomputer

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NASA plans to study the ocean's future with the help of the world's first supercomputer of its kind to run on the Linux operating system.

The new supercomputer — an SGI AltixT 3000 single-system image supercomputer — has been installed at the space agency's Ames Research Center in California. NASA deployed the supercomputer in collaboration with SGI.

A primary function of the supercomputer will be to deliver high-resolution analysis of ocean circulation and its impact on global climate patterns.

A joint effort by NASA headquarters, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the research center and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is under way as part of the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) consortium. The group also involves the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California.

With the improved capabilities, NASA researchers expect to receive information in a matter of days.

"The turnaround time users typically see on large ocean simulations can take months," said Bob Ciotti, a research scientist at Ames. "By dedicating half of the machine to the ECCO project...we now expect turnaround to be about two to three days."

NASA engineers worked with SGI to expand the Altix systems' capabilities. It has achieved a high speed of 2.45 trillion operations per second.

This new computer is the first in a series of high-end computing test beds in a partnership between NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology and Office of Earth Science.

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