Regional CI engagement

CISL has a strong presence in regional cyberinfrastructure (CI) development, including both the high-performance computing (HPC) and networking communities. Working with regional entities broadens NCAR’s impact by fostering the maturation of regional CI, leverages unique regional resources and partnerships to tackle regional problems, and is a natural and mutually beneficial component of a national center’s role.

Contributions to metropolitan and regional networks

CISL’s Network Engineering and Telecommunications Section (NETS) is a recognized leader and participant in many regional networking projects that are tightly integrated with national networks. NETS provides a vital service to NCAR’s research communities by linking scientists to supercomputing resources and each other. These activities are essential for the effective use of UCAR/NCAR scientific resources, and they foster the overall advancement of scientific inquiry.

CISL’s involvement with regional networking consortia includes the Front Range GigaPoP (FRGP), the Bi-State Optical Network (BiSON), Western Regional Network (WRN), Boulder Point-Of-Presence (BPOP), Boulder Research and Administration Network (BRAN), the City of Boulder CG4 inter-building cabling, and the National Regional Networks Consortium named The Quilt. These collaborations and networks are all designed to provide NCAR/UCAR and other institutions in the region with robust regional and wide-area data pathways.

On behalf of UCAR, CISL continues to lead and participate in these important metropolitan, regional, and national networking initiatives. The tangible benefits of such participation include economical, diverse, high-performance networking for UCAR and its member universities. However, the intangible benefits are at least as important: participating in these initiatives reinforces UCAR’s public mission of providing services to its members while simultaneously fostering cooperative ventures, collaborations, and relationships among these institutions. As a leading participant in such community alliances, NETS contributes to strengthening UCAR’s value as an institution and helps UCAR fulfill its leadership and outreach obligations for NSF funding.

Commitment to HPC partnerships

CISL is actively engaged with regional HPC partnerships. These activities allow CISL to gain hands-on experience in collaborating with campus IT staff through the processes of CI acquisition, deployment, and resource federation.

Wyoming-NCAR Alliance and regional campus partnerships

Perhaps CISL’s most important regional partnership is the Wyoming-NCAR Alliance (WNA), which governs the joint activities of NCAR and the State and University of Wyoming related to the NWSC facility, the Yellowstone environment, and NWSC’s Education, Outreach, and Training activities. Through this partnership, CISL collaborates with Wyoming to enhance their campus HPC capabilities and extend Wyoming’s research partnerships with other EPSCoR states. CISL has also supported several University of Wyoming-focused STEM education activities and proposals including a recently funded NSF ITEST proposal related to robotics and computer gaming.

In FY2015, CISL is completing its collaboration with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado at Denver on a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) project that brought Janus, a 184-TFLOPS Intel-based Dell supercomputer to the CU Boulder campus. NCAR controls a 9.8% portion of this system and used more than 4.1 million core-hours across 15 allocated projects. Access to Janus’ computing resources were used to support a number of new startup research projects, thus serving as an important staging area for scientists preparing for the Yellowstone supercomputer.

In collaboration with the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), the Mesa Lab Computing Facility continued to host CSM’s IBM supercomputer named “BlueM” through FY2015. CISL collaborated with CSM on a computational science research project related to this novel hybrid computing system that combines IBM’s iDataPlex and Blue Gene/Q platforms.

In an effort to extend CISL’s engagement with other regional high-performance computing facilities, on 6 February 2015, a team of engineers visited NREL’s computer center and discussed HPC system administration challenges and best practices.

Intel Parallel Computing Center for Weather and Climate Simulation

CISL and the University of Colorado at Boulder continued their collaboration on an Intel award for the Intel Parallel Computing Center for Weather and Climate Simulation (IPCC-WACS). This collaborative center promotes the discovery of new methods for optimizing the performance of weather and climate models on Intel Xeon and Xeon Phi hardware and accelerates the adoption of these optimizations in key weather and climate community models. Additional details of this work are discussed in the section Optimizing model performance on NCAR supercomputers.

Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium

CISL continued its participation in the activities of the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium (RMACC), a consortium of regional HPC organizations including Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, the University of Wyoming, NCAR, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and NOAA’s Boulder Earth System Research Laboratory and research and educational organizations from Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. RMACC representatives meet monthly to discuss and organize joint training, education, and outreach activities. They also consider other collaborative measures to benefit the regional development of HPC.

In August 2015, RMACC organized and hosted the fifth annual RMACC Symposium, which attracted hundreds of registered participants to a series of lectures, tutorials, and affinity group discussions at the CU Boulder campus. CISL representatives gave presentation and led discussions on “HPC Debugging Techniques.” Three CISL interns won prizes in the Symposium’s poster competition.

Rocky Mountain Cyberinfrastructure Mentoring and Outreach Alliance

CISL was awarded an NSF Collaborative Research CC*IIE Region Proposal titled the “Rocky Mountain Cyberinfrastructure Mentoring and Outreach Alliance (RMCMOA).” Colorado State University (CSU), the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON), the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB), and the University of Utah (UU) have a long and fruitful history of collaboration, leadership, and innovation in regional and state networking, cyberinfrastructure (CI), and high performance computing (HPC) technology and infrastructure operations. These partners are leveraging their expertise and organizational structures to lead and manage an outreach effort to better inform, educate, and drive adoption and expansion of advanced networking and CI technologies to small colleges and universities in the western region of the United States, specifically those in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

During the two-year award term, the project team will conduct four regional workshops for smaller institutions focused on High Performance Networking (HPN) as an enabler of scientific discovery through computational modeling and simulation, data-driven analysis, collaboration, and community building. Two workshops have been held. The first, in January 2015 at Arizona State University, focused on small school CIOs and strategically positioning HPN and HPC at their universities. The second was held in conjunction with the RMACC Symposium in August 2015 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This workshop focused on HPN and HPC for engineers from small schools.

The team will make site visits and consult with smaller institutions in the region to mentor, educate, and support proposal development and campus investment for research infrastructure and related funding opportunities. Engineering support is being provided to smaller institutions on the approaches and benefits of HPN performance measurement, performance troubleshooting and optimization, use of Science DMZs, enhanced information security protection, IPv6, and network interactions with HPC data nodes. Finally, strategies for preparing and submitting CI-related proposals are being addressed for administrators and faculty leaders, and many proposals from the community were submitted and awarded in the recent round of NSF CC*DNI (Data Networking and Infrastructure) awards. The outcome of this proposal will benefit many students and faculty in the geographically challenged Intermountain region and enhance the deployment, utilization, and access of advanced CI. UCAR has also collaborated through the RMCMOA grant, with the other five regional awardees in The Quilt including presentations on the effort at Internet2, NSF PI, and Quilt Meetings.

UCAR also submitted and was awarded a supplement to the RMCMOA grant. This proposal is a partnership between UCAR, the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), and the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER). Five women will receive funding to participate in the 2015 Supercomputing Conference (SC15) while gaining valuable hands-on training in building one of the world’s premier IT networks.

The five awardees will join the volunteer workforce that puts together a dedicated high-performance research network known as SCinet. It comes to life for the duration of the Supercomputing Conference (SC) each year, and is critical to the conference’s information and communication flow. The network is among the fastest and most advanced in the world, often referred to as “the fastest network connecting the fastest computers” by SC organizers. The new initiative is known as “Women in IT Networking at SC” – WINS for short – and it is an effort to expand the diversity of SCinet volunteer staff and provide professional development opportunities to highly qualified women in the field of networking.

Purpose and funding

These efforts advance CISL’s strategic computing imperatives in hardware cyberinfrastructure, software cyberinfrastructure, and facilities. Further, this work also addresses CISL’s education imperative to broaden participation. CISL’s work in this area is supported by NSF Core funding, NSF MRI grant CNS-0821794, and UCAR non-federal funds.