The National Petascale Computing Facility, home of Blue Waters
|Sponsors||US NSF and University of Illinois|
|Location||University of Illinois|
|Architecture||49,000 AMD CPUs
237 Cray XE6 cabinets
44 Cray XK7 cabinets
|Operating system||Cray Linux Environment|
|Storage||26.5 PB, 1.1 TB/s Sonexion storage array|
Blue Waters is a petascale supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On August 8, 2007, the National Science Board approved a resolution which authorized the National Science Foundation to fund "the acquisition and deployment of the world's most powerful leadership-class supercomputer." The NSF awarded $208 million for the Blue Waters project.
On August 8, 2011, NCSA announced that IBM had terminated its contract to provide hardware for the project, and would refund payments to date. Cray Inc. then was awarded a $188 million contract with the University of Illinois to build the supercomputer for the Blue Waters project; the supercomputer was installed in phases in 2012.
Blue Waters was announced in 2007 as a project to build one of the fastest supercomputers in the world. IBM was contracted to be the vendor for the project and the supercomputer was to be based on IBM’s Power 7 processor technology. However, in August 2011, IBM cancelled the Blue Waters contract citing increased costs and other changes.
Cray Inc. then took over the project with funding from the National Science Foundation, based on the Cray XE6 and XK7 cabinets as well as integrating NVIDIA Tesla Kepler GPU computing capability. The new design will have a similar performance to the previous IBM design and will be able to sustain a speed of at least one petaflop. It was finally completed in March 2013 and has since been used for a range of projects including predicting the behavior of complex biological systems to simulation of the evolution of the cosmos. It is currently one of the fastest supercomputers in the world.
Blue Waters runs science and engineering code at sustained speeds of at least one petaflop. It has 1.5 PB of memory, 25 PB of disk storage, and up to 500 PB of tape storage. The file system running on this storage will be the Cray Lustre parallel file system, which is capable of terabyte-per-second storage bandwidth. There will be 300Gbps wide area connections.
A machine the scale of Blue Waters introduces special concerns with regards to cooling and power. A new National Petascale Computing Facility was built at the University of Illinois at the corner of Oak Street and St. Mary's Road. This new facility houses Blue Waters and other NCSA computing, networking, and data systems. The 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) building has a 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) machine room. The facility has been certified LEED Gold. The facility makes use of the university's campus-wide water cooling system and additional on-site cooling towers that will take advantage of the low temperatures in Illinois during the winter months to help reduce energy consumption. The building was designed using complex fluid dynamic models to optimize the cooling system. Energy efficiency at the data center is estimated to be in the 85%-90% range, far superior to the 40% efficiency typically seen in large data centers.
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