DOD ups research with Navy supercomputer

The Defense Department has increased its supercomputing capacity with the purchase of an IBM supercomputer for the Naval Oceanographic Office’s Major Shared Resource Center. The Power 575 Hydro-Cluster, a water-cooled system, has a peak processing speed of 90 teraflops and is one of the most powerful systems DOD has — more than four times faster than the computer it replaces.

“Many DOD scientists and researchers are looking forward to having this system available to support their computational needs,” said Tom Dunn, director of the center, located at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It is one of four high-performance computing centers in DOD.

The centers rent the use of their computers to DOD researchers, although the new $12.6 million supercomputer will primarily be involved in researching and modeling ocean waves, currents and temperature. Knowing projected ocean conditions in detail is essential for the Navy’s fleet operations.

In addition, the Coast Guard uses the information to enhance search and rescue operations, and the public and commercial shippers can access the models on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Web site.

The supercomputer’s reliability is as much a necessity as raw processing power, said Michael Henesey, vice president of deep computing at IBM. “Its mission is direct support of the fleet,” he said. “So it needs to be up and running 24/7.”

IBM introduced the Power 575 in April. Water-chilled plates above each microprocessor help cool the computer, a process that the company said is 4,000 times more efficient than cooling by air. It allows the computer to run at higher speeds while using less energy. It also reduces the air conditioning and floor space required, Henesey said.

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