Blue Waters Supercomputer Open For Business
March 31, 2013

Dedication Ceremony Held Thursday For Blue Waters Supercomputer

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Blue Waters — one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world — was officially declared available for use in a ceremony held at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) on Thursday.

In technical terms, the computer “is capable at peak performance of nearly 12 quadrillion floating point operations per second and, more importantly, has demonstrated sustained system performance of more than one petaflop on a range of commonly-used science and engineering applications,” the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the project, explained in a statement.

In other words, it can perform multiple complex calculations very quickly, and has memory and storage capabilities that put it at the forefront of computer science technology. The NSF said that Blue Waters is already tackling issues that are far larger and much more complex than those modeled thus far, and has already begun providing “unprecedented insights” into a number of different topics.

Among the research currently being conducted on Blue Waters are: an attempt to model the HIV genome, research into the role of clouds in global climate change, simulations of earthquakes that would affect the entire Los Angeles basin, flood assessment and drought monitoring efforts, and an analysis of the fundamental laws of nature and the earliest stages of the universe´s development.

“Blue Waters is an example of a high-risk, high-reward research infrastructure project that will enable NSF to achieve its mission of funding basic research at the frontiers of science,” Cora Marrett, acting director of the NSF, said in a statement. “Its impact on science and engineering discoveries and innovation, as well as on national priorities, such as health, safety and well-being, will be extraordinary.”

Even though the dedication event was held on March 28, the computer has been available for use by research teams for nearly an entire year. Thus far, over 30 different science and engineering teams have taken advantage of Blue Waters´ capabilities, completing research in particle physics, cosmology, and various other fields.

The NSF said that these studies “will provide insights into the fundamental nature of matter, the basic constituents of the everyday world, critical processes on the earth, as well as the evolution of the universe.” Blue Waters was the second supercomputer to be officially dedicated last week, with the other — Stampede — being dedicated at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday.

“Today's dedication celebrates Blue Waters, which promises to accelerate the pace of scientific progress across multiple disciplines,” said Farnam Jahanian, the head of NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “Blue Waters is a national resource that will allow researchers access to the most powerful computational resources available today, furthering research across all scientific disciplines and enabling the investigation of problems not possible before.”

“With Blue Waters, scientists are beginning already to predict the behavior of complex biological systems, understand how the cosmos evolved after the Big Bang, design new materials at the atomic level, predict the behavior of earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, and simulate complex engineered systems like the power distribution system of airplanes and automobiles,” added NSF division director for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Alan Blatecky.