July 9, 2011

The Met Office Supercomputer

I remembered a few things about this particular beast and did a bit of Googling: From IT Pro:
Met Office supercomputer tops polluting list
The Met Office�s celebrated supercomputer, which has a major function of predicting climate change, has been identified as one of the worst culprits for pollution in the UK.

The �30 million IBM machine produces 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

The emissions have led to the Met Office�s headquarters in Exeter being named among the worst public buildings for pollution in a new league table from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

But the Met Office is less than happy with the accolade. It said in a statement: �We recognise that our DEC rating [carbon dioxide emissions] is large but it is also necessary. Our supercomputer is vital for predictions of weather and climate change.�
Some specs from ZD Net:
Met Office buys IBM petaflop supercomputer
The as-yet-unnamed supercomputer is being acquired from IBM in a deal worth �33m, and will be used for both standard weather forecasting and climate-change prediction.

The supercomputer is due to come online in 2009, and will initially run at a maximum speed of 125 trillion floating point operations per second. According to IBM, this will make it the second most powerful computer in the UK, after the one run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. By 2011, the Met Office supercomputer is expected to operate at speeds approaching one quadrillion floating point operations per second, or one petaflop.
OK so we are looking at about $52M USD and one petaflop. Now, our US Military has built their own machine. From Defense Systems:
PlayStations power Air Force's green supercomputer
The Air Force has long taken an interest in using video games for simulation and modeling, but it's now using their underlying technology for supercomputing.

The Air Force Research Laboratory�s Condor Cluster project is using video game console components to make a supercomputer. Built from off-the-shelf components, the guts of the Condor Cluster consist of 1,716 Sony PlayStation 3 game consoles.

Speaking to reporters at a DOD Live Bloggers Roundtable, Mark Barnell, director of high performance computing and the Condor Cluster project at the AFRL, the computer is designed to operate at speeds around half a petaflop, or some 500 trillion floating-point calculations per second. He added that the cluster is currently the 35th or 36th fastest computer in the world. With some tweaks, it could be bumped up to around the 20th fastest machine, he added.

But raw speed is not one of the Condor Cluster�s goals. It�s a green machine, designed to demonstrate new ways to use supercomputing resources while using less energy. It is currently the greenest computer in the world, Barnell said.

The computer is also designed to be affordable. The cluster cost $2 million to build and is much less expensive than general purpose supercomputers, whose prices begin at $50 million. (The PlayStation 3 sells for $299 on Amazon. com, so the retail cost of 1,716 of them would be $513,084.)
So -- about one half the performance for 26 times less money and it's green to boot. And the Air Force is not the first ones to notice the possibilities. Back in March, 2007 I posted this about a group at North Carolina State University. The post referenced this article at PhysOrg:
Engineer Creates First Academic Playstation 3 Computing Cluster
The Sony Playstation 3, Xbox and Nintendo Wii have captivated a generation of computer gamers with bold graphics and rapid-fire animation. But these high-tech toys can do a lot more than just play games. At North Carolina State University, Dr. Frank Mueller imagined using the power of the new PS3 to create a high-powered computing environment for a fraction of the cost of the supercomputers on the market.

Mueller, an associate professor of computer science, has built a supercomputing cluster capable of both high-performance computing and running the latest in computer gaming. His cluster of eight PS3 machines � the first such academic cluster in the world � packs the power of a small supercomputer, but at a total cost of about $5,000, it costs less than some desktop computers that have only a fraction of the computing power.

�Clusters are not new to the computing world,� Mueller says. �Google, the stock market, automotive design companies and scientists use clusters, but this is the first academic computing cluster built from Playstation 3s.
A classic case of big science top down management FAIL and of nimble small working group WIN. Posted by DaveH at July 9, 2011 5:09 PM
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