Key moments in NCAR supercomputing

From punch cards to petascale processing

 October 5, 2012

State-of-the-art computing and
big-data
 processing have been
part of NCAR from
the center’s
earliest years. Here's a
snapshot
of selected
hardware advances.


Micro-
processor
peak
teraflops

 Memory
(terabytes)

Processors 

Years in
service

1963

First supercomputer

Operator with Control Data 3600 computer, 1963 

CDC 3600 (Control Data)
NCAR staff wrote the operating system

 0.000001   0.000000032    1    2.5  
red line

1977

First vector-based system

Operator with Cray-1A, 1977 

C1 (CRAY-1A, Cray Computer)
NCAR becomes Cray Computer's first
customer for this vector-processing system

 0.000160    0.000008    1    12  
red line

1988

First parallel processing system

Capitol supercomputer, circa 1988


Capitol (Connection Machine 2,
Thinking Machines)
With over 8,000 processors, this
machine enabled the NCAR-University
of Colorado Center for Applied
Parallel Processing

 0.00717    0.001    8,192    4.5  
red line

1999

Transition to clustered
shared-memory processors

Jeff Kuehn with blackforest supercomputer, 1999

Blackforest (SP RS/6000, IBM)
NCAR makes a major investment in
conversion from vector-based to
parallel processing systems

  1.96     0.7    1,308   5.5  
red line

2008

Supercharged
speed and efficiency

Operator with Bluefire supercomputer, 2008

Bluefire (Power 575 Hydro-
Cluster,
IBM)
The first in a highly energy-efficient
class of water-cooled machines to be
shipped anywherein the world arrives,
with speed that more than triples
NCAR's computing capacity

 77    12.2    4,096    4.5  
red line

2012

The next great leap

 Yellowstone supercomputer, 2012

Yellowstone (iDataPlex, IBM)
NCAR enters petascale computing with
this massively parallel machine

 1,600    149.2    74,592    new  

 

More supercomputing history at NCAR

NCAR's Computational and Information Systems Lab provides a detailed timeline of our supercomputers.