Scientists receive supercomputing resources for high-impact projects

The ALCC allocations are enabling projects such as CASL to access the OLCF’s computing resources. Above, a Jaguar simulation of a reactor core. Image credit: Tom Evans, ORNL

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) has awarded more than 270 million processor hours to researchers using the OLCF. Through the ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC), allocations were awarded to five projects with an emphasis on high-risk, high-impact research related to DOE’s energy mission. They are already providing insight into important efforts such as advancing the clean-energy agenda and understanding the Earth’s climate.

“The processor hours from ALCC allow projects to run full scenarios instead of only getting a glimpse of part of them, which really helps scientists running simulations,” said Doug Kothe, director of the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, a project that was allocated 30 million hours through ALCC. ORNL is leading this multi-institutional energy innovation hub. Nuclear energy provides an enormous opportunity for the United States to provide carbon-free energy, said Kothe. The project will allow engineers to simulate a currently operating reactor with the goal of validating the virtual model created by the consortium.

The ALCC program offers awards for 1-year projects, and researchers can submit applications year-round. The awards go to projects offering insight into the Earth’s climate and potential answers to the country’s key questions, such as how to strengthen its energy security, improve its environmental quality, and develop its economic vitality through public–private partnerships.

ALCC allocates up to 30 percent of the computational resources provided by the ORNL and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) leadership computing facilities as well as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. Another 60 percent or more of the resources allocated at these centers is distributed through the INCITE program, which was designed for computationally intensive, large-scale research projects capable of significantly advancing key areas in science and engineering. The remaining 10 percent at ORNL and ANL is allocated at the discretion of each Leadership Computing Facility’s director. Researchers given ALCC hours at ORNL have the chance to use Jaguar, one of the world’s fastest supercomputers with more than 224,000 processors, 300 terabytes of system memory, and a peak performance of 2.3 petaflops (2.3 quadrillion calculations per second).

Petascale computing helps scientists understand climate change by enabling simulations of greater realism. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), scheduled to be published in early 2014, will evaluate the most recent scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information produced worldwide about climate change. An ALCC allocation of 10 million processor hours supports the Community Earth System Model (CESM), which is aimed at understanding and predicting the climate system. CESM is the basis for simulations that will be referenced in AR5. AR5 will assess only papers that have been either published in peer-reviewed journals or accepted for publication; therefore, for consideration in AR5 the complete suite of simulation runs must be finished by the end of December 2010. Jaguar simulations contributing to this effort are complete.

Another ALCC recipient is the Joule Metric program, which was granted 150 million processor hours to ensure and enhance the efficiency of scientific applications. The Joule Metric’s ALCC time will enable collection of benchmark data and improve the effectiveness, scalability, and scientific capability of application software. Scientific computing is critical to addressing large-scale challenges in the U.S. today, and DOE uses this program to trace how well government resources like Jaguar are meeting the increasingly complex needs of scientific communities.

Through ALCC, researchers addressing grand challenges are continuing to conduct extremely complex simulations critical to the country’s energy and climate missions. — by Charli Kerns