UAF Supercomputer Doubles in Size

Fairbanks, Alaska - Supercomputing power more than doubled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks over the weekend. With the upgrade, the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC) will be one of the top 40 supercomputing sites in the world.

The upgrades to Yukon, the ARSC CRAY T3E -- increases from 104 to 272 processors, and in disk storage from 280 to 519 gigabytes (GB) -- will allow researchers to accomplish huge computational tasks with even more speed. Scientists use the massive processing power of the supercomputers at ARSC to perform computations that might otherwise be impossible. This means that where Yukon could previously execute over eight billion floating point calculations per second, it can now carry out more than 20 billion calculations in the same amount of time.

As part of the same improvements, disk space in Chilkoot, the ARSC CRAY J932, was increased from 291 to 482 GB. This will enable Chilkoot to be even more effective at managing the enormous volumes of data generated by ARSC researchers. Both Cray systems are manufactured by Silicon Graphics, Inc.

"Everyone at ARSC is very excited about the upgrades," said Virginia Bedford, head of technical services at the center. "We say the processing power of the T3E has doubled, but it's really increased more than two and a half times. The new processors will provide computing services to more users and make it possible for scientists already doing research to solve bigger and more complex problems faster."

After several weeks of assembling the components, Yukon was shut down and the power turned off at 6 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. All the new processors and associated hardware were installed and tested by a team of specialists, then the machine was once again made available to users.

"The additional processors will not just speed up our machine's maximum performance, they'll also make it possible to run more jobs at one time," said user consultant Derek Bastille. This will help more scientists tackle important research problems with the supercomputers, Bastille said.

Work done using the center's supercomputers is helping to answer questions that may affect people in Alaska or around the world. Scientists have used the supercomputers at ARSC to track Arctic weather patterns, design new road beds for permafrost-plagued areas, map the paths of tsunamis, develop a new computer interface which responds to body language, and using satellite data to determine soil moisture in remote areas of Alaska. ARSC provides cutting-edge high performance computing power to researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Department of Defense and other research institutions.

"The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center works hard to provide state of the art computing resources to users in Alaska and around the country," said user services director Barbara Horner-Miller, "We look forward to seeing the results of these upgrades in our researchers' projects over the coming months."

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