Dalhousie University Chooses SGI Supercomputing and Storage Solutions for Global Atmospheric Pollution Research and Quantum Nano-Electronics Studies

Global Numerical Model, Now Tracking Pollutant Emissions in Up to 35

Atmosphere Levels Around the World, Runs 3-to-4 Times Faster On SGI Altix 350

Jan 10, 2005, 00:00 ET from SGI

    SAN DIEGO, Booth 90, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Silicon Graphics
 (NYSE:   SGI) today at the 85th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting
 announced that SGI(R) Altix(R) systems and SGI(R) InfiniteStorage solutions
 are assisting two cutting-edge assistant professors in two very diverse fields
 of research in the Physics and Atmospheric Science Department at Dalhousie
 University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Both researchers are immersed in solving
 intense computational problems requiring the speed and expandability of SGI(R)
 high performance compute (HPC) power and storage, and both agree SGI Altix
 computers turned out to be the best choice for the large data sets they run.
     Dr. Randall Martin is currently conducting global pollution studies
 -- including how pollutants react in the atmosphere and how pollution spreads
 across the globe -- as well as developing tools to monitor emissions for
 international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, on two SGI Altix systems
 with heavy duty SGI storage support. Dr. Jordan Kyriakidis is researching
 theoretical quantum nano-electronics, with a long-term goal to develop quantum
 materials as replacements for transistors in computers and other electronics,
 using another pair of SGI Altix systems linked to SGI RAID storage via fiber
     Global Pollution Studies
     No stranger to the power of SGI high performance computers, Dr. Martin, a
 Research Associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in
 addition to his role at Dalhousie, previously assisted in the design of a
 global numerical model at Harvard, GEOS-CHEM, which is now used at a number of
 universities. A UNIX(R) OS-based application originally developed on an SGI(R)
 Origin(R) family system running SGI(R) IRIX(R) OS, GEOS-CHEM uses simulated
 meteorological fields from NASA and other models to divide the atmosphere into
 a grid and solve for chemical composition. The application was already in the
 process of being ported to a variety of other platforms including 32-bit
 Linux(R) operating system when Dr. Martin considered the Linux OS-based SGI
 Altix for his work at Dalhousie. SGI technicians easily ported GEOS-CHEM to
 the 64-bit Altix system. Dr. Martin reported the SGI Altix system runs his
 global atmospheric data sets at 3 to 4 times the speed of computers he used at
 Harvard University a little over two years ago.
     To track global emissions, Dr. Martin receives satellite data from NASA
 and the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as data from aircraft and other
 sources. During the summer of 2004, Dr. Martin completed his first satellite
 retrieval using the two SGI(R) Altix(R) 350 systems, each with 16 Intel(R)
 Itanium(R) 2 processors, linked via gigabit Ethernet to an SGI(R)
 InfiniteStorage TP9100 with 3TB of RAID storage. Taking raw spectra data of
 the earth's atmosphere and of the sun, he assessed pollutant concentrations
 around the globe and is now providing that data to NASA for analysis as part
 of an integrated satellite aircraft campaign. The campaign, called ICARTT, is
 designed to investigate the outflow of pollution from North America into the
 global atmosphere. The aircraft take samples of a whole range of atmospheric
 constituents, including aerosols and trace gasses -- some of which are toxic,
 some greenhouse gasses.
     "SGI Altix is much, much faster than anything I've ever used before," said
 Dr. Martin, "probably three to four times faster, which is just phenomenal.
 Altix also enables us to run our simulations at higher resolutions and
 therefore provide a more accurate picture of the atmosphere, and it enables to
 us examine results more quickly: in my work, time is of the essence. It's
 important to have a fast computer; otherwise we'd have to restrict what we
 could do, the type of sensitivity studies we could perform, the resolution at
 which features can be examined, and the number of pollutants that we can put
 into our model."
     Resolution currently runs at two degrees by two and a half degrees
 (approximately several hundred kilometers) on Dr. Martin's SGI Altix system
 running GEOS-CHEM software. GEOS-CHEM divides the atmosphere up into about a
 million boxes -- and within those boxes there are roughly 30 to 35 layers in
 the atmosphere -- and solves for all of those attributes, simultaneously,
 every three hours.
     "Thanks to the SGI Altix systems, we're contemplating the possibility of
 running at one by one degree globally, which is something we never would have
 even considered beforehand, but I believe we can do it with the SGI system,"
 added Dr. Martin. "Understand: one by one increases the number of 'boxes' by a
 factor of five and in each of those boxes we have maybe 45 different
 pollutants that we advected (transported from one box to the other, either
 vertically or horizontally) around between boxes, so all of these numbers all
 multiply and you can get a very large array of data very quickly."
     Not only can SGI Altix handle the one by one degree calculations, said Dr,
 Martin, but, "Most importantly, SGI InfiniteStorage TP9100 with 3 TB of RAID
 can expand to support one by one resolution."
     By using satellites to observe the abundance of pollutants in the
 atmosphere, and combining the satellite data and the models, Dr. Martin said
 he could infer what the emissions from various countries had to have been. He
 is expecting to develop techniques towards enforcing protocols, such as the
 Kyoto Protocol, to monitor emissions from various countries from space using
 the SGI Altix 350 system running the GEOS-CHEM model. Dr. Martin will also be
 investigating the use of the GEM-AQ model, currently being developed in
 Canada, to similarly examine surface air quality and climate issues.
     "SGI Altix offered the best price/performance of any vendor," concluded
 Dr. Martin. "We looked at IBM, Sun, and HP, but SGI had a much better
 price/performance, and by price/performance I mean relating to the number of
 computations it can do within a shared memory framework and the RAM that could
 be provided as well. Plus I'd had a lot of good experience with SGI
 beforehand, on their Origin platform. SGI has a strong history of shared
 memory systems and that was important as well."
     More information on Dr. Randall Martin's work can be found on the Web at
     Exploring Quantum Nano-Electronics Theory on SGI Altix
     Dr. Jordan Kyriakidis' work is taking him into uncharted territory; as he
 points out, he is "a theorist, not an experimentalist." His work revolves
 around a simple fact: the world has relied on transistors (which replaced
 vacuum tubes) for more than 40 years, and while electronic devices grow ever
 smaller, there has been no essential change in the original transistor. Many
 scientists, especially in nanotechnology, feel a replacement -- a new
 technology -- will soon be needed. Dr. Kyriakidis uses his two 16-processor
 SGI Altix 350 systems, with 54GB RAM and SGI Infinite Storage TP9100, with one
 TB of storage, to work with quantum dots -- "think of them as artificial
 atoms" -- which can be designed and engineered to have properties a scientist
 wants them to have, i.e. artificial hydrogen, artificial helium, etc.
     "Nanotechnology is a gigantic field and, within that, the small piece that
 we're looking at is called quantum nano-electronics," explained Dr.
 Kyriakidis. "This field is relatively new but it's moving very rapidly. The
 bottleneck in all of nanotechnology is that we don't have any good way to
 control the systems. We know we can do things -- place atoms one at a time
 -- but we can't do it very well or very quickly. And part of the issue that
 needs to be resolved before the field can progress is, we have to find new and
 innovative techniques that will enable us to control these systems far beyond
 the current levels. What I do is look at what kinds of controls we can have on
 these systems, and how fine a level of control can we have. We have a theory
 of how these artificial atoms should behave and we use the SGI Altix systems
 to do quantum simulations -- calculations to figure out if they do actually
 have the properties that we think they should have."
     This is the first time Dr. Kyriakidis has done serious research on SGI
 computers, and a high performance Linux OS-based system was exactly what he
 was looking for.  "I've had lots of experience with Linux," he added. "We
 write a lot of our own software because there is no generally accepted
 software: everything is very bleeding edge. The fact that SGI has these 64-bit
 Altix machines, which are Linux OS with such huge processing power in a very
 professional, high performance grade of machine, was very attractive to us
 because it meant we could start being productive right away. We didn't have to
 spend time writing software again on some specialized operating system."
     In addition to 64-bit performance on SGI Altix, powerful storage is
 essential for quantum simulations. "We have a huge database that we need to
 store somewhere," explained Dr. Kyriakidis. "In a sense, we can't handle the
 data that our software produces all in one shot, so we have to store it
 somewhere and then we have to go back and look through the data and see what
 it's trying to tell us. The storage is an integral part. We have a SGI TP9100
 -- a big storage array -- and it's connected via fiber optics to one of our
 two Altix systems. With fiber optics from the processor, we can really, very
 quickly write the data to the hard drive, which is a collection of about 10 or
 15 hard drives, and then read the data back again."
     Dr. Kyriakidis chose SGI as a company, and Altix in particular, because,
 "It represented the best value in pure processing power, operating system and
 storage requirements and price," he concluded. "Combine all those things
 together and SGI Altix far and away became the best option for us. And so far,
 we've been bang-on in our decision; we're quite, quite happy with it. Because
 we now have SGI Altix, I'm able to do things that just were not possible
 before. SGI Altix systems will clearly enable us to move the science forward
 -- more forward than we've ever been able to do before."
     More information on Dr. Jordan Kyriakidis' work can be found on the Web at
     Collaboration Key To Best SGI Solution
     Both Dr. Martin and Dr. Kyriakidis applied for Canada Foundation for
 Innovation (CFI) funding, through a program called the New Opportunities
 Grant, for the monies to acquire super-fast computers and storage to further
 their research. Both received their funding grants and -- in an unusual
 collaboration -- decided to pool their money to get more together than they
 would have individually.
     "Dalhousie is Nova Scotia's leading research university and our
 researchers and graduate students have used SGI high-performance computer and
 visualization systems for many years," said Dr. Carl Breckenridge,
 vice-president of research at Dalhousie University. "We're very pleased with
 this collaborative initiative by these new researchers, which led to this
 acquisition of state-of-the-art SGI Altix systems under the CFI grant. We
 encourage our researchers to consider the benefits of pooling funding when
 approaching companies like SGI. It can give researchers great strategic
 advantages. We look forward to the results of their research."
     "SGI's cost-effective 64-bit Altix systems continue to be of huge
 importance to atmosphere, weather, and physics researchers around the world as
 the migration to Linux continues among many disciplines in the scientific
 community," said Martin Pinard, president of SGI Canada. "Dalhousie University
 experienced first-hand how easy it is to port code written in SGI IRIX over to
 what is simply the highest performance Linux OS-based computer system in the
 world: SGI Altix, backed by the most solid and reliable storage in the world,
 the SGI InfiniteStorage family."
     Installed in early July 2004, the Dalhousie University installation
 included four SGI Altix 350 systems with 16 processors in each system and two
 SGI InfiniteStorage TP9100 systems -- one with 3 TB of storage, the other with
 1 TB storage -- plus assorted networking hardware enabling a gigabit Ethernet
 connection in one department and fiber optic connectivity in the other.
     About Dalhousie University
     Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada since 1818, Dalhousie is one of
 Canada's leading universities. It attracts more than $93 million dollars in
 research awards and grants yearly. In 2003, The Scientist magazine named
 Dalhousie the best place in the world to work, outside the United States, as a
 scientific researcher. For more information, please visit www.dal.ca.
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      Marla Robinson