CISL Director’s message

Al Kellie
CISL Director Al Kellie

Welcome to the FY2014 CISL Annual Report. This collection of highlights from our service, science, and education portfolios includes an overview of CISL’s broader impacts on the research community.

This was a busy year of significant progress in CISL along several fronts. In its second year of operation, Yellowstone continues to provide scientists in the atmospheric and related sciences with the computing resources necessary to advance our understanding of the Earth System. This year we also expanded the GLADE disk storage systems to 16 petabytes to keep up with the insatiable demand for data storage resources. Our Big Data analysis and visualization tools, like VAPOR and NCL, have continued to evolve to support ever larger and more complex data sets, and new parallel tools, like LatticeKrig and PyReshaper, have helped accelerate data-intensive scientific workflows.

Perhaps surprisingly to those not familiar with the supercomputer lifecycle, we’ve begun planning the deployment of a larger and even more powerful successor to Yellowstone, scheduled to start operations in January 2017. And last but not least, we continue to work hard in the education and outreach area, where a highlight included hosting the Diversity in the Computational Geosciences Workshop at NCAR, a unique forum that brought together educators, computational scientists, and diversity advocates from government, academia, and national laboratories.

This annual report describes numerous changes we have implemented in the past year to our hardware, services, tools, and methods to stay at the forefront the needs of atmospheric sciences. This year we handled more data than ever in our history and made significant upgrades to NCAR’s HPSS archival facility, increasing its capacity to 160 petabytes.

CISL’s scientific research also focused on big data initiatives this year. Numerically simulating the Earth System requires many forms and differing volumes of data to be managed very efficiently. These data sets range from small but vital historical observations to very large data sets from satellite and radar observations and from model outputs. CISL led the way by enhancing the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART) that integrates observational data with simulations. This year, DART’s efficiency with Community Earth System Model (CESM) components was increased dramatically via new software that enables multiple DART/CESM assimilation cycles in a single job, significantly reduces the core hours spent archiving, and reduced queue waiting time by an order of magnitude. More FY2014 CISL research advances include new NARCCAP data service capabilities that allow users to access only the data they need from very large data sets via spatial and temporal subsetting, file spanning, aggregation, and format conversion.

CISL launched several new forward-looking services this year. Based on Globus software, one offers researchers a simple way to transfer and share large data sets. Another is the HPC Futures Lab to extend CISL’s exploration of emerging high performance computing (HPC) technologies. A third new service, the Strategic Parallel and Optimization Computing (SPOC) initiative, is an NCAR-wide effort to increase the performance and efficiency of NCAR’s community codes – CESM, WRF, and MPAS – on Yellowstone, and to prepare these codes for future supercomputing architectures.

Also in FY2014, CISL and the University of Colorado at Boulder received funding from Intel, Inc., to form an Intel Parallel Computing Center focused on Weather and Climate Simulation (IPCC-WACS). Participation in this IPCC program will enable NCAR and CU to develop ways to increase the performance of atmospheric applications using advanced microprocessor technologies, and this work will help train the next generation of scientists and engineers who will apply these new technologies.

CISL continued to offer progressive and well-targeted education programs to enrich and expand our research community. SIParCS, TOY, and RSVP are mature programs that encourage young scientists and engineers to plan for and succeed at careers in the computational and Earth System sciences. CISL now offers a selection of webinars and online training for HPC, NCL, and VAPOR users. The visitor center at the NCAR Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) continues to exceed expectations for the ongoing visitor load: in FY2014, the NWSC hosted 47 large groups and a total of 1,713 visitors. Further, the NWSC visitor center now serves as a preferred venue for regional STEM events.

As part of its diversity program, CISL conducts mission-appropriate outreach to integrate education and research, broaden participation in Earth System sciences, and develop the future STEM workforce. CISL again reached out to various sites through visits, conferences, job fairs, and presentations to tribal colleges and minority-serving institutions. CISL employs multiple communication methods to connect the work of NCAR scientists and engineers with interested students in minority groups, EPSCOR states, and two-year colleges. This year, our collaborations with computational science faculty members from Hampton University, Salish Kootenai College, and Alabama A&M University led them to become project mentors for CISL’s first summer externship program. These faculty joined CISL staff to teach parallel computing concepts to nontraditional students who have obligations that do not allow them to spend an entire summer in Boulder for an internship. Engaging nontraditional students through an externship program and via webcasting allows CISL to redefine its definition of diversity and better understand the resources and needs of partner students, faculty, and communities.

It is my pleasure to present our FY2014 CISL Annual Report. As you read it, I hope excitement about our recent progress comes through. These and many more accomplishments appear in the following pages. Enjoy!