University requests for NCAR supercomputing set record

By Brian Bevirt
12/02/2015 - 12:00am

At its October 2015 meeting, the CISL HPC Allocations Panel (CHAP) faced a record 59 requests for computing time on NCAR’s Yellowstone system. These requests from university researchers totaled 233% of the core-hours available for allocation. The number of October 2015 requests for using Yellowstone demonstrate the research community’s strong and growing demand for the petascale computing resources managed by CISL. Yellowstone is NCAR’s production high-performance computing (HPC) resource that is integrated with analysis, visualization, networking, data storage, and archival systems tailored to the needs of Earth System scientists.

“The panel was slammed by the number of requests for computing time on Yellowstone,” said Dave Hart, CISL’s User Services manager and CHAP coordinator. The 59 requests were 25% more than the previous record. After careful consideration, the 16 panel members made allocations to 52 of them, and almost all proposals received less time than they had requested. However, all researchers can make future requests for additional time in subsequent allocation cycles.

Oct. 2015 CHAP allocatrions
This chart shows the number of Yellowstone core-hours that the CHAP awarded to 52 research projects in October 2015, ranging from a high of nearly 7 million to approximately 300,000 core-hours.

The October proposals totaled 202.6 million core-hours on Yellowstone, with a median request size of 2.3 million core-hours. The average award was 1.9 million core-hours, and the largest amount allocated to a single request was 6.9 million core-hours. Nineteen proposals received awards of more than 2 million core hours, and 15 received between 1 million and 2 million core hours. The distribution of the October 2015 allocations is shown in the chart above. The October allocations included awards to university researchers in seven EPSCOR states: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, all based on merit.

NCAR’s HPC allocation process is managed by CISL to ensure that all of NCAR’s supercomputing resources are used equitably and efficiently across as many NSF-approved projects as possible. CISL uses several allocation processes to distribute resources and ensure access by the most meritorious projects. These allocations serve several distinct communities of researchers in the atmospheric and related sciences: the university community, Climate Simulation Laboratory (CSL) users, NCAR researchers, and University of Wyoming researchers.

The CHAP reviews the university and CSL requests, and the NSF defines and monitors the CHAP process to make sure its investment in the nation’s cyberinfrastructure is well used. CHAP members are computational researchers in the atmospheric and related sciences, they are experts in the fields of the requests they review, and they are all volunteers from the university and NCAR communities. More information is available at CISL’s CHAP website. The next CHAP meeting to evaluate large requests for supercomputing time will take place in late April 2016, with a submission deadline of March 28 for university and CSL requests.

“We are looking forward to having more resources to offer on NCAR’s next supercomputer that will begin production in 2017,” Hart said. “It won’t be a 30x capacity increase like Yellowstone provided over Bluefire, but it will allow us to support larger requests in addition to more requests.”