NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery for 50 Years

Berkeley Lab Selects IBM Technology to Power Cloud Computing Research

Technology Purchased with Recovery Act Funds from the Department of Energy

November 16, 2009

Armonk, NY and Berkeley, CA — IBM and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) announced today that an IBM System x iDataPlex server will run the Lab's program to explore how cloud computing can be used to advance scientific discovery.

The program, dubbed Magellan, is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Magellan system will be a testbed for National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) scientists to explore the effectiveness of cloud computing for their particular research problems. Ultimately, the project will benefit society by allowing scientists to accelerate discoveries in such disciplines as energy efficiency, climate change and genomics.

The Magellan Project will use IBM's newest iDataPlex dx360 M2 server, which features double the memory and even higher power efficiency than previous versions. Harnessing iDataPlex's innovative half-depth design and liquid-cooled door, clients can lower cooling costs by as much as half and reduce floor space requirements by 30 percent.

The iDataPlex is on the list of most energy efficient computers in the world, the Green500 List. Berkeley Lab's iDataPlex system will have a theoretical peak speed of more than 60 teraflops and will be used to explore a set of possible software configurations for science clouds.

While DOE centers operate some of the world's most powerful supercomputers, many researchers do not require such massive computing power. Cloud computing makes it efficient for the Lab to also support scientists with modest-size computing problems.

"Cloud computing has tremendous potential to accelerate scientific discoveries by making computing resources readily available to the masses of scientists. Rather than buying and managing their own cluster, a researcher can simply access a virtual cluster within the cloud. We expect many of the NERSC users to take advantage of Magellan for real scientific work, and at the same time we will be conducting research on how to build and manage science clouds," said Kathy Yelick, head of the NERSC Division at Berkeley Lab. "We evaluated a number of different technologies and concluded that IBM iDataPlex would deliver the best value to complete this important research."

The Magellan research team will deploy a large cloud testbed with 5,760 processor cores on iDataPlex to evaluate a variety of DOE scientific applications, from power grid simulations to nanoparticle analysis and analyzing climate change data.

The Magellan Project will help the DOE determine which scientific applications demonstrate the best performance in the cloud and what software and processes are necessary for those applications to take advantage of cloud services.

About NERSC and Berkeley Lab
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that serves as the primary high performance computing center for scientific research sponsored by the Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NERSC serves almost 10,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities researching a wide range of problems in climate, fusion energy, materials science, physics, chemistry, computational biology, and other disciplines. Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy. »Learn more about computing sciences at Berkeley Lab.