About CISL

Supercomputers and data storage | Serving user communities | NCAR supercomputing history

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 (HPC) 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

Supercomputers and data storage

Today, CISL manages and operates:

  • Supercomputers – systems with an aggregate capacity of more than 5 petaflops peak.
  • Data analysis and visualization (DAV) 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 shared work spaces across CISL's HPC and DAV resources.
  • Data storage systems that include NCAR Campaign Storage, the Quasar archive for data collections, and the Stratus object storage disk system for long-term storage.
  • The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) – A sophisticated computing center 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 in to designated hardware, software, or network engineers 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 NCAR and university researchers and supports these communities as well:

  • 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.
  • XSEDEsponsored 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.

NCAR, CISL and supercomputing history

NCAR has provided computing resources and services to the atmospheric science research community since its inception in 1960. Today’s CISL organization traces its own origins to the NCAR Computing Facility, which was formed in 1964 and became known as the Scientific Computing Division (SCD) in 1980.

SCD and the Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences merged in 2005 and became the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory.

That evolution is reflected in the technology that has supported scientific research through the years. See NCAR supercomputing history for a unique record of computational history and progress.