Supercomputer Center At Cheyenne Gets Computers

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is building a supercomputer to simulate hurricanes, tornadoes and severe storms for better predictions.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — This past week, efforts to build one of the world's fastest supercomputers here took a huge leap forward.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is building a supercomputer just west of Cheyenne.

The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center is located just north of Interstate 80 near the Wal-Mart distribution center.

The 153,000-square-foot center should open by late September or early October. Its grand opening is set for Oct. 15.

Last week, the center received a major shipment of computers.

Crews began to move in and assemble some of these large IBM computer units. There will be 63 suchcomputer units housed in a huge room.

"This is exciting. We've been planning portions of this facility for about seven years," Aaron Andersen, deputy director for operations at the facility, said during a media tour. "It's kind of like this is game time. You practice for a long time and you get to go to the big game now."

The computers should be installed by August, Andersen said, and then they will be tested.

The computer's speed ranks the system among the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world. It will be able to perform 1.5 petaflops (1.5 quadrillion) calculations or operations per second, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

The supercomputer will help scientists across the country research weather events, air pollution, climate, carbon sequestration, earthquakes and water issues.

The computer will be able to simulate hurricanes, tornadoes and severe storms. Its answers will help scientists better understand and predict natural disasters.

"This is the biggest facility system NCAR has installed," Andersen said.

The supercomputer will be housed on top of a 10-foot raised floor. Electrical and mechanical systems are below.

The new facility cost $70 million to build. Money comes from federal and state governments and business groups.

The IBM Yellowstone supercomputer is estimated to cost between $25 million and $35 million.

The University of Wyoming is a partner in the supercomputer, and the state of Wyoming provided $20 million toward its construction. UW also will pay $1 million a year for 20 years for upgrades and storage.

In return, the university will have access to 20 percent of the supercomputer's operations.

"This is an incredible opportunity for the university," UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said.

That access puts UW at or near the top universities in the country in terms of computing capacity, he said.

"We have a couple dozen professors on campus who need high-performance computing capacity," Baldwin said. "They are lined up to do this."

UW professors will use the supercomputer for their research, which ranges from studying planetary formation to water runoff in the Colorado Basin to wind turbine performance.

UW has recruited computational scientists for several years in anticipation of the supercomputer coming online. Twenty employees will work there, Andersen said, noting they have all been hired, and about a dozen are from Wyoming.

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