The NWSC: Almost ready for prime time

Journalists, officials get a sneak peak at Cheyenne center

Jun 14, 2011 - by Staff

14 June 2011  •  Hard hats and safety vests mingled with suits, ties, and video cameras on 10 June, when reporters from Wyoming and northern Colorado got their first look inside the nearly completed building that will house the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center. About 40 guests, ranging from UCAR and NCAR staff to state dignitaries and print and TV journalists, took a tour of the facility.

Journalists at NWSC media day, 10 June 2011
Journalists assembled in one of the NWSC’s two modules, which await final construction touches. (Photos by Carlye Calvin, ©UCAR. The images associated with this story are freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

Located just west of downtown Cheyenne near the intersection of I-80 and I-25, the 153,000-square-foot building is designed to support the high-end computing needs of NCAR and the university community for many years to come. “The buzzword is ‘future-proof’,” said UCAR president Richard Anthes at a press conference, referring to the allowance for growth in the building’s modular design.

Guests assembled in one of the two NWSC modules designed to house supercomputers. Each module is supported by its own heating, cooling, power, and ventilation systems (see the recent UCAR Magazine article and Staff Notes slideshow). More modules could be added at a later point.

“We don’t know all the great things we can discover here,” said Wyoming governor Matt Mead, who took office in January. NCAR director Roger Wakimoto touched on the wide range of research, from tornado dynamics to climate impacts, to be facilitated by the NWSC and its computers. According to Wakimoto, “We might not realize it, but we are all users of information that has come from research conducted on supercomputers," he said.

Matt Mead and Rick Anthes
Wyoming governor Matt Mead and UCAR president Richard Anthes.

“This is a project that will transform the University of Wyoming and the work that we do,” said UW president Tom Buchanan. Referring to the upcoming computers, he added, “I’m looking forward to when we get to come back and plug those things in.”

As it generates new findings in the atmospheric and related sciences, the NWSC will also stimulate research and education in computational science. At UW, about 25 faculty in computing-heavy disciplines each plan to involve several graduate students in NWSC-related projects, according to Bryan Shader, a mathematics professor and special assistant to the UW vice president for research. Emphasis will be placed on the building’s design and its usefulness for future engineers as a model for sustainable computing facilities.

“This will give students an opportunity to see how you can build a green data center,” says Shader.

Tom Buchanan, UW
University of Wyoming president Tom Buchanan.

The next phase of NWSC development will include testing the building’s complex infrastructure and procuring and installing the center’s supercomputing equipment. The exact speed and the manufacturer of the supercomputer will be determined once the procurement process is complete. NCAR expects to make an announcement about the successful vendor this fall. Budget estimates for the procurement range from $25 to $35 million.

Construction of the NWSC is a partnership among NCAR, NSF, UW, the State of Wyoming, Cheyenne LEADS, the Wyoming Business Council, and Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power. The center will be operated by NCAR on behalf of NSF and UCAR.

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