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Dalhousie Chooses SGI For Atmospheric And Quantum Nano-Electronics Studies

File photo of SGI Altix computers
San Diego CA (SPX) Jan 14, 2005
Silicon Graphics has announced at this week's 85th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting that SGI Altix systems and SGI InfiniteStorage solutions are assisting two cutting-edge assistant professors in two very diverse fields of research in the Physics and Atmospheric Science Department at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Both researchers are immersed in solving intense computational problems requiring the speed and expandability of SGI high performance compute (HPC) power and storage, and both agree SGI Altix computers turned out to be the best choice for the large data sets they run.

Dr. Randall Martin is currently conducting global pollution studies - including how pollutants react in the atmosphere and how pollution spreads across the globe - as well as developing tools to monitor emissions for international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, on two SGI Altix systems with heavy duty SGI storage support.

Dr. Jordan Kyriakidis is researching theoretical quantum nano-electronics, with a long-term goal to develop quantum materials as replacements for transistors in computers and other electronics, using another pair of SGI Altix systems linked to SGI RAID storage via fiber optics.

Global Pollution Studies

No stranger to the power of SGI high performance computers, Dr. Martin, a Research Associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in addition to his role at Dalhousie, previously assisted in the design of a global numerical model at Harvard, GEOS-CHEM, which is now used at a number of universities.

A UNIX OS-based application originally developed on an SGI Origin family system running SGI IRIX OS, GEOS-CHEM uses simulated meteorological fields from NASA and other models to divide the atmosphere into a grid and solve for chemical composition.

The application was already in the process of being ported to a variety of other platforms including 32-bit Linux operating system when Dr. Martin considered the Linux OS-based SGI Altix for his work at Dalhousie.

SGI technicians easily ported GEOS-CHEM to the 64-bit Altix system. Dr. Martin reported the SGI Altix system runs his global atmospheric data sets at 3 to 4 times the speed of computers he used at Harvard University a little over two years ago.

To track global emissions, Dr. Martin receives satellite data from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as data from aircraft and other sources. During the summer of 2004, Dr. Martin completed his first satellite retrieval using the two SGI Altix 350 systems, each with 16 Intel Itanium 2 processors, linked via gigabit Ethernet to an SGI InfiniteStorage TP9100 with 3TB of RAID storage.

Taking raw spectra data of the earth's atmosphere and of the sun, he assessed pollutant concentrations around the globe and is now providing that data to NASA for analysis as part of an integrated satellite aircraft campaign.

The campaign, called ICARTT, is designed to investigate the outflow of pollution from North America into the global atmosphere. The aircraft take samples of a whole range of atmospheric constituents, including aerosols and trace gasses - some of which are toxic, some greenhouse gasses.

"SGI Altix is much, much faster than anything I've ever used before," said Dr. Martin, "probably three to four times faster, which is just phenomenal. Altix also enables us to run our simulations at higher resolutions and therefore provide a more accurate picture of the atmosphere, and it enables to us examine results more quickly: in my work, time is of the essence.

"It's important to have a fast computer; otherwise we'd have to restrict what we could do, the type of sensitivity studies we could perform, the resolution at which features can be examined, and the number of pollutants that we can put into our model."

Resolution currently runs at two degrees by two and a half degrees (approximately several hundred kilometers) on Dr. Martin's SGI Altix system running GEOS-CHEM software. GEOS-CHEM divides the atmosphere up into about a million boxes - and within those boxes there are roughly 30 to 35 layers in the atmosphere - and solves for all of those attributes, simultaneously, every three hours.

"Thanks to the SGI Altix systems, we're contemplating the possibility of running at one by one degree globally, which is something we never would have even considered beforehand, but I believe we can do it with the SGI system," added Dr. Martin.

"Understand: one by one increases the number of 'boxes' by a factor of five and in each of those boxes we have maybe 45 different pollutants that we advected (transported from one box to the other, either vertically or horizontally) around between boxes, so all of these numbers all multiply and you can get a very large array of data very quickly."

Not only can SGI Altix handle the one by one degree calculations, said Dr, Martin, but, "Most importantly, SGI InfiniteStorage TP9100 with 3 TB of RAID can expand to support one by one resolution."

By using satellites to observe the abundance of pollutants in the atmosphere, and combining the satellite data and the models, Dr. Martin said he could infer what the emissions from various countries had to have been.

He is expecting to develop techniques towards enforcing protocols, such as the Kyoto Protocol, to monitor emissions from various countries from space using the SGI Altix 350 system running the GEOS-CHEM model. Dr. Martin will also be investigating the use of the GEM-AQ model, currently being developed in Canada, to similarly examine surface air quality and climate issues.

"SGI Altix offered the best price/performance of any vendor," concluded Dr. Martin. "We looked at IBM, Sun, and HP, but SGI had a much better price/performance, and by price/performance I mean relating to the number of computations it can do within a shared memory framework and the RAM that could be provided as well. Plus I'd had a lot of good experience with SGI beforehand, on their Origin platform. SGI has a strong history of shared memory systems and that was important as well."

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Supercomputer Advances To New Level In China
Shanghai, China (XNA) Nov 19, 2004
The fastest supercomputer in China - Dawning4000A, which operates at a speed of 11 trillion calculations per second, was officially started at Shanghai Supercomputer Center (SSC) on Monday.

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