CISL Director's Message

Anke Kamrath, CISL Director
Anke Kamrath, CISL Director

In FY2018 more than 1,700 individuals at over 330 universities and other institutions used CISL-operated computational and storage resources, and more than 14,000 individuals from 131 countries used data collections that CISL manages. To support our users’ critically important endeavors, all of these NCAR supercomputing and data services are tailored to meet the needs of the atmospheric, geospace, and related science communities. Our annual report highlights the broad scope and high quality of CISL’s own work. I am pleased to report that during the past fiscal year, CISL made exceptional progress on key strategic objectives.

We continued to focus on developing and providing advanced data services, as reflected in the formation of our new Information Systems Division and successful recruitment of its first director. In addition, CISL and staff from the NCAR Library and Earth Observing Laboratory jointly hosted the NSF-funded Geoscience Digital Data Resource and Repository Service (GeoDaRRS) workshop in FY2018. The workshop brought together more than 60 geoscience researchers, technology experts, publishers, funders, and data repository personnel. This area of emphasis is further demonstrated by the formation of CISL’s Data Working Group, one of five such groups established to guide our ongoing strategic planning efforts in service to the Earth system science community. Other working groups focus on HPC infrastructure and services; research and development; community outreach; and workforce development.

Two of CISL’s most notable highlights in FY2018 involved transitions in the technology we provide for researchers. Near the end of the fiscal year, we finished installation and deployment of a new data analysis and visualization (DAV) system, the Casper cluster, at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center. In addition to meeting users’ DAV needs, Casper is configured to support explorations in machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) in atmospheric and related sciences. CISL also substantially enhanced its data storage services with the addition of a new 20-PB Campaign Storage disk-based archive and upgrades to GLADE file system hardware, including the introduction of nearly half a petabyte of user-accessible solid-state drive (SSD) storage.

This report includes three sections, beginning with our achievements in providing HPC and data services to advance Earth system science. The second section highlights our improved research capabilities in computational science and data analytics. Finally, the report describes CISL’s efforts to reach out and inspire new generations of computational geoscientists.

Advancing Earth system science through HPC and data services

This section includes more details about the new Casper cluster. Casper is the successor to the Geyser and Caldera systems, which have served the user community since 2012. Casper’s deployment is one facet of CISL’s strategic investment in machine learning for the geosciences. The section also describes advances in both disk-based and tape-based archival storage capabilities, and CISL’s ongoing involvement in the regional, national, and international cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.

Improving computational and data analytics capabilities

As this section explains, CISL helps transform and support progress in Earth system science by combining powerful supercomputing resources with innovative and outstanding computational and data science research. We do this in several ways, one of them exemplified by the establishment in FY2018 of our new Analytics and Integrative Machine Learning (AIML) group. AIML is focused on harnessing machine learning and advanced statistical techniques to simplify, enhance and accelerate traditional HPC tasks. Notable FY2018 successes in data analytics include standardization of the Pangeo Environment and simplification of its launch and use on NCAR systems. This section of our report includes more information on AIML, the Pangeo Project, other data science research, investigation of new technologies and emerging architectures, and our ongoing partnerships with others in the community.

Reaching out to new generations of scientists

Our outreach activities are now spearheaded by the newly reconfigured CISL Outreach, Diversity and Education (CODE) group. The group takes on the challenge of meeting CISL’s objectives through a range of activities, including well-established internship and visitor programs and new faculty training in HPC concepts. Some of our FY2018 accomplishments are described in this last section of the report.

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As you read about CISL’s FY2018 accomplishments, I hope you will appreciate the importance of our strategic efforts, the pride we share in our work, and the dedication of our staff.