Skip to main content
Email Print Share


News Release 15-130

Comet: A supercomputer for the 'long tail' of science

NSF Assistant Director Jim Kurose welcomes SDSC's new cluster, designed to expand computational access for researchers

super computer


SDSC's new Comet supercomputer is designed to run as many as 10,000 research jobs simultaneously.
Credit and Larger Version


October 19, 2015

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego this week formally launched "Comet," a new petascale supercomputer designed to transform scientific research by expanding computational access among a larger number of researchers and across a wider range of domains.

"The launch of Comet marks yet another stage in SDSC's leadership in the national cyberinfrastructure ecosystem," said Jim Kurose, assistant director of the National Science Foundation for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), during remarks Oct. 14 at the SDSC event. "Through this launch and the extraordinary computing capabilities of SDSC, the Center will continue to expand the frontiers of science and engineering, allowing researchers to open new windows into phenomena as vast as the universe and as small as nanoparticles."

The result of an NSF award valued at roughly $24 million, including hardware and operating funds, Comet is designed to meet the emerging requirements often referred to as the "long tail" of science--the idea that the large number of modest-sized computationally based research projects represent, in aggregate, a tremendous amount of research that can yield scientific advances and discovery.

Comet joins SDSC's Gordon supercomputer as another key resource within the NSF's XSEDE (eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) computer resource-sharing system, which comprises the most advanced collection of integrated digital resources and services in the world.

In his remarks, Kurose noted that cyberinfrastructure--defined as a dynamic ecosystem consisting of advanced computing systems, data, software and, most importantly, people, all linked by high-speed networks--has increasingly become a critical component of discovery and innovation.

"It is essential for accelerating the pace of discovery and innovation in all fields of inquiry...and for the progress of science, engineering, national competitiveness, health and security," he said.

SDSC used the formal launch of Comet to also celebrate 30 years as a national resource for advanced computation.

"SDSC has been at the forefront of cyberinfrastructure since the center's beginning in 1985, as one of NSF's original supercomputer centers," Kurose said. "It has been a leader of the data science revolution as well. The work done at SDSC has not only provided insights into fundamental science but it has also included a strong dedication to K-12 educational outreach."

How SDSC's "Comet" Supercomputer Serves Science and Society

Comet is configured to help transform advanced computing by expanding access and capacity not only among research domains that typically rely on HPC--such as chemistry and biophysics--but among domains which are relatively new to supercomputers, such as genomics, finance and the social sciences. Some of the domains already being served by Comet include:

Astrophysics: Supercomputers can greatly accelerate timescales for researching the origins of the universe.

Neurosciences, Brain Research: SDSC's Neuroscience Gateways project will contribute to the national BRAIN Initiative announced by the Obama Administration to deepen our understanding of the human brain.

Social Sciences: Sociologists and political scientists are analyzing newly accessible data sets to study censorship of the press, factors that affect participation in the political process, and the properties of social networks.

Molecular Science: Studying the properties of lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, and small molecules can advance our understanding of biophysical processes at the atomic scale, leading to new drug designs and reducing disease.

DNA Nanostructures: Conducting nanoscale biomolecular research could lead to low-cost DNA sequencing technologies, and in turn create targeted drug delivery systems and help explain the molecular causes of disease.

Alternative Energy Solutions/New Materials Research: Finding new and more efficient solutions to energy harvesting, nanoporous membranes for water desalinization, solar thermal fuels and more.

Fluid Turbulent Physics: Supercomputers can create highly detailed simulations to track ocean currents or improve industry methods related to the discharge of pollutants or oil flow in pipelines.

Climate Change/Environmental Sciences: Modeling atmospheric aerosols, identified as influencing the chemical composition and radiative balance of the troposphere, has direct implications for our climate and public health.

Seismic Research/Disaster Prevention: Keys to hazard management for major earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires include the ability to predict a wide range of possibilities. Supercomputer-generated simulations are used to inform decision-making strategies.

The Tree of Life: Biologists construct phylogenetic trees to capture the evolutionary relationship between species, and help us better understand the functions and interactions of genes, the origin and spread of diseases, the co-evolution of hosts and parasites and migration of human populations.

Key Features of Comet:

  • ~2 petaflops of overall peak performance--one million billion operations or calculations per second.
  • Dell compute nodes using next-generation Intel Xeon processors, 27 racks of compute nodes totaling 1,944 nodes or 46,656 cores.
  • 128 gigabytes of dynamic RAM and 320 GB of flash memory per standard compute node.
  • 72 nodes per rack with full bisection InfiniBand FDR interconnect in each rack, and a 4:1 bisection cross-rack interconnect.
  • Additional GPU and large-memory (1.5 Terabytes) nodes for applications such as visualization, molecular dynamics simulations, or de novo genome assembly.
  • 7 petabytes of Lustre-based high-performance storage from Aeon, and 6 petabytes of durable storage for data reliability.
  • First XSEDE production system to support high-performance virtualization.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Jan Zverina, San Diego Supercomputer Center, 858-534-5111, jzverina@sdsc.edu
Aaron Dubrow, NSF, 703-292-4489, adubrow@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Michael L. Norman, San Diego Supercomputer Center, 858-822-5461, mlnorman@ucsd.edu

Related Websites
UC San Diego: http://www.ucsd.edu/
San Diego Supercomputer Center: http://www.sdsc.edu/
Comet: http://www.sdsc.edu/services/hpc/hpc_systems.html#comet

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: https://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: https://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: https://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/

 

Jim Kurose
Jim Kurose, assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) at NSF.
Credit and Larger Version

graphic showing a planet and the word comet
Comet is SDSC's newest petascale supercomputer, designed to transform advanced scientific computing.
Credit and Larger Version