Fact sheet for NIWA’s HPCF

NIWA’s p575 POWER6 supercomputer has been specifically designed to run software codes that are highly coupled requiring the highest interconnect communications performance available, and to support operational workloads that demand high reliability, availability and serviceability.

  • It is being used to solve problems with potentially broad social, political, economic, and scientific impact in the fields of energy, biophysics, weather, weather-related hazards forecasting, marine and climate modelling and forecasting.
  • It is improving NIWA’s ability to create forecast models that are more aware of New Zealand’s complex geography, use more data and deliver faster and more reliable forecasts of hazards - especially flooding and coastal inundation.
  • The supercomputer is about one hundred times faster than the previous HPC, a Cray (T3E1200) system, which means, for example, that numerical weather prediction models that used to take 80 minutes to complete on 40% of the previous system now complete in 8 minutes on about 4% of FitzRoy.
  • The supercomputer has 0.7 PB of Tier 1 and 2 disk storage and approximately 8 PB of Tier 3 storage on LTO5/LTO6 tape media.
  • The High Performance Computing Facility is made up of 21 racks, each around two metres tall and some of them weighing as much as a mid-sized car. The floor where it is kept at NIWA’s Greta Point facility has been specially strengthened to hold its 18-tonne weight.
  • The Computer Hall  has been designed: to withstand severe earthquake shaking,  the effects of a tsunami of the size generated by the 1855 Wairarapa Earthquake (it has a 1.2 m deep sub floor), to survive the effects of fire within the Allen Store (it is a concrete reinforced structure), and to provide a clean-room environment for the IBM equipment.
  • The High Performance Computing Facility is powered and cooled by  an environmental plant  that incorporates a 1 MW transformer, two 370 kW air-cooled water chillers (increasing to 1375 KW in 2015), an adaptive voltage conditioner to manage power system spikes and sags, two uninterruptable power supplies to manage mechanical and computer sub-systems in the event of a power system failure, an 840 KW backup generator, redundant computer room air conditioners, a cooling circuit that holds 5500 litres of chilled water, redundant water pumps (and circuits) that can move chilled water at 45 litres/s, a VESDA smoke and fire detection system, an Inergen fire suppression system, and more than 4 km of sensor cabling in the HPCF Automatic Control System (HACS) which monitors around 2000 sensor outputs to manage and maintain the environmental services needed by the supercomputer.
  • It is available to scientists across the country through the REANNZ high-speed research network (http://reannz.co.nz/about-reannz) that links universities and research institutes. It also supports NIWA’s role in the Natural Hazards Research Platform, the $140million 10-year research project that aims to better understand natural hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes and severe weather, and will provide the HPC resources required to simulate the climate of the Southern Ocean in the Deep South National Science Challenge.