Exciting times as applications are allocated to Blue Waters

08.25.09 -

Earlier this summer, excitement started to build for the Blue Waters sustained petascale computing system as the National Science Foundation announced the first science teams to receive preliminary Petascale Computing Resource Allocations (PRACs) for Blue Waters. Each PRAC award identifies a scientific challenge requiring advanced modeling and simulation capabilities that can only be provided by a system with a sustained performance approaching a petaflop. There is a list of the initial awards in this issue, with more awards to follow over the next two years.

With the PRAC announcements—along with the progress in the Blue Waters system design and implementation—Blue Waters project staff will be engaging with scientists and engineers regarding specific applications targeted for Blue Waters. The project team has developed a comprehensive, four-phase approach to support the PRACs before, during, and after deployment. NCSA has a team of application and user support staffs ready to assist the PRAC science teams with porting and tuning, even re-engineering, their applications to make full use of the novel hardware and software available on Blue Waters. The process begins with performance modeling and processor and network simulation to explore the benefits of different approaches, then moves on to the insights enabled by early hardware experiments, and eventually final optimization and tuning on the Blue Waters system itself. The Blue Waters project is collaborating with two performance modeling groups, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Performance and Architecture Laboratory (PAL) and UC San Diego's Performance Modeling and Characterization (PMaC) group, which are both able to work with selected PRAC codes to understand and optimize the performance of the applications.

At the same time, PRAC scientists will be able to use a Blue Waters interim system, a 2,000-core IBM Power 5+ system called BluePrint. While this system does not approach the computational or storage power of Blue Waters, it will have an environment similar in many ways to what Blue Waters will be providing, so PRAC scientists can acclimate themselves to the programming environment. BluePrint will also be running early releases of some expanded Blue Waters computing system software between now and the deployment of Blue Waters. Periodically, Blue Waters staff will be holding training workshops on topics such as the Mambo (processor) and BigSim simulation environments, performance monitoring and analysis tools, I/O strategies, and library routines.

During the next year, the Blue Waters team, through a series of meetings, workshops, and other interactions, will work to understand the specific goals and needs of each PRAC team, and will use this information to help optimize the Blue Waters configuration and services. This information will guide the Blue Waters project as it makes Blue Waters one of the world's most powerful and effective tools for computational science.

The Blue Waters team envisions a seamless transition for the PRAC teams from the development phase of Blue Waters to the multi-year production phase of the system. The same high-quality service that users of other NCSA systems have come to know will be available to all of the scientists and engineers using Blue Waters.

Today, Blue Waters is more than halfway through its development and deployment phase. Early engagement with the PRAC awardees will ensure that the research community can take full advantage of the extraordinary capabilities of Blue Waters to solve the most challenging and critical problems in science and engineering.

Stay tuned!

National Science Foundation

Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation through awards ACI-0725070 and ACI-1238993.