Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Big Iron:

We went up onto the Table Mesa in Boulder today to visit the computing facilities at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR. The National Science Foundation has funded a supercomputing center here for over forty years, beginning with a brand-new CDC 3600 machine in 1963 (32kb of memory!).

Today there are several machines running, including Bluesky, a cluster of 50 IBM p690 machines shown below that are very nearly exceeding the cooling capacity of the building. In fact, NCAR is having severe space shortage problems, not because of the computers, but because of the power and cooling infrastructure that is needed to run them.

Bluesky Posted by Picasa

In fact, simply to schedule runs on Bluesky, and handle output from the Bluesky runs they have to use more 'big iron.' Here's a shot of the SGI Origin 3800 that is used for the batch queing, data analysis and postprocessing of Bluesky's jobs:

SGI Origin 3800 Posted by Picasa

With all this horsepower around, I was greatly relieved to see some geek humour in the naming of two machines Boris, and Natasha (including appropriate cartoon stickers), as well as the following books on the bookshelf from the "XX for Dummies" series:

Bookshelf o' Confidence Posted by Picasa


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