CISL's mission is to support and advance the geosciences with world-class computing, data management and research in mathematics and computational science. CISL realizes this mission by providing:
- High-performance computing and expertise needed for the development and execution of large, long-running numerical simulations
- A data archiving and management system that is balanced in performance and capacity relative to computational resources
- High-speed network and data communication capabilities that are balanced with respect to computational facilities, storage facilities, and the requirements of a national and international community
- Research data sets and expertise needed by atmospheric and related sciences
- A computing environment and support services that emphasize user productivity and cost-effectiveness
- Education and training in computing and related technologies with an emphasis on under-represented groups
- A center of activity for the mathematical and geophysical communities that applies mathematics and statistics to fundamental issues in the geosciences
NCAR has provided computing resources and services to the atmospheric science research community since its inception in 1960. See the supercomputing history page for an overview of NCAR's supercomputers through the decades. The NCAR Computing Facility was formally organized in 1964 and became the Scientific Computing Division (SCD) in 1980.
SCD and the Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences (IMAGe) merged in 2005 and became the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL). IMAGe encourages and nurtures the development of new mathematical tools, models, and facilitates connections between the mathematical and geophysical communities. IMAGe extends the reach and breadth of CISL's extensive portfolio of IT and computer science research projects.
Supercomputers, data storage, and networking
Today, CISL manages and operates:
- Supercomputers – systems with an aggregate capacity of over 1.5 petaflops peak.
- Data analysis and visualization clusters – resources for interactive data analysis and visualization tasks requiring large memory, specialized software, and hardware-accelerated graphics.
- Central file system – a high-performance shared file system that provides more than 16.4 petabytes of shared work spaces across CISL's HPC and DAV resources.
- High-Performance Storage System – archives and serves over 1.3 petabytes of atmospheric and related research data and a current total capacity of more than 100 petabytes.
- Network – high-speed, reliable, secure network connectivity to five campuses that requires support of over 150 logical networks, approximately 180 monitored network devices, and more than 4,700 network-attached devices, plus management commitments to additional municipal and wide-area networks
- Computing Centers: NWSC and MLCF – Two sophisticated computing centers that house our supercomputers and enterprise servers, with professional operations staff who provide support 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
Quick response to problems is ensured by continual monitoring of all systems and a formal protocol for monitoring, diagnosing, and reporting problems. Low-level situations are handled by CISL computer specialists, while higher-priority situations are immediately called or paged in to designated hardware, software, or network engineers from CISL or the appropriate vendor. A trouble-ticket system logs and tracks all reports, providing an efficient process for problem escalation and solution.
Serving user communities
CISL offers services and support to over 1,000 users at more than 200 sites. The division supplies computing resources to two communities of researchers,
- Community Computing Facility – provides high-performance computing to support the NCAR scientific program and meet the needs of university researchers in atmospheric and related sciences
- Climate Simulation Laboratory (CSL) – a multiagency facility established in 1995, CSL provides high-performance computing, data storage, and data analysis systems to support coupled climate models and large ensembles of climate prediction models.
- XSEDE - sponsored by the National Science Foundation, XSEDE replaces and expands on the NSF TeraGrid project. XSEDE currently supports 16 supercomputers and high-end visualization and data analysis resources across the country and includes other specialized digital resources and services to complement these computers. NCAR operates services that allow users to easily move data to and from XSEDE sites.