News Release

San Diego Supercomputing Center stands ready to respond to emergencies with OnDemand research

Business Announcement

U.S. National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Supercomputing Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego will soon support on-demand, event-driven, scientific research. In the event of an emergency--an earthquake, tornado or hurricane, for example--information can immediately be used to provide researchers (and the public) with a fast, clear view of the event's impact.

SDSC's OnDemand service marks the first time an allocated NSF-funded TeraGrid, a computing grid linking some of the nation's largest supercomputer centers, will support on-demand users for urgent science applications, said Anke Kamrath, director of user services at SDSC.

"SDSC's OnDemand enables some of the TeraGrid's significant resources to be made available in quick response mode during an emergency," said Jose Munoz, deputy director of NSF's Office of Cyberinfrastructure. "Now researchers and the general public may have the more timely benefit of advances made in research in areas such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, and provide earlier and more thorough and accurate assessments when these natural disasters strike."

In addition to supporting important research, the system will serve as a model to develop on-demand capabilities on additional TeraGrid systems, officials said.

In between urgent jobs, the SDSC's OnDemand resource will operate in a normal manner. Under normal operations, a batch of jobs is maintained constantly at the ready, often consisting of more than 1,000 jobs waiting to be processed. As soon as a safety concern arises, be it natural, biological or radiological, pre-determined jobs are immediately scheduled. This results in the center allocating for emergency resources ahead of otherwise scheduled batch jobs.

For example, within 30 minutes following a magnitude 3.5 or greater earthquake, researchers can have animated clips showing in graphical form the full impact of the quake, including depths and energy. As data is recorded by the thousands of automated sensors, it automatically feeds into the computer model. In about half an hour, this tool can provide concise, visual answers about what happened.

The OnDemand engine at SDSC is comprised of 256 2.33 GHz processors (64 Intel-based dual-socket, dual-core nodes). It operates at only 2.4 Tflops, but is sufficient for allocation for such jobs which routinely require about 150 processors for the full 28+ minutes.

The system is already in operation and formal allocations of time for OnDemand will begin in October.


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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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