LBNL HPC supports 'science as usual' as well as COVID-19 research

LBNL HPC supports 'science as usual' as well as COVID-19 research

The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), both managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, allow the lab to support "science as usual" during the COVID-19 even as it helps facilitate virus-specific research.

Shelter-in-place policies across the country appear to be putting even greater demands on the high performance computing (HPC) systems at the NERSC. With travel plans and conferences delayed or canceled, many of NERSC’s more than 7,000 users are spending their time at home but still want to advance their research by running projects on the center’s systems.

“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of NERSC personnel to keep computing systems running and supporting users’ requests, our ‘computing lab’ (NERSC) remains open and operational at full capacity,” said Manos Mavrikakis, a NERSC user and distinguished professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose work focuses on understanding catalytic process principles and the discovery of new materials that would enable more efficient energy production. “As a result, we have been able to continue pursuing our research on catalytic reaction mechanisms, pretty much at the same pace as before coronavirus dominated everybody’s lifestyle. We are enormously grateful to NERSC personnel for an excellent job under highly stressful conditions.”

Utilization of Cori, the center's primary computer, is at 97%--an all-time high, said NERSC Division Director Sudip Dosanjh. Cori, a Cray XC40 supercomputer able to perform nearly 30 quadrillion calculations per second, is used to create detailed models of scientific problems and analyze massive amounts of data from experimental facilities operated by the Department of Energy (DOE).

ESnet provides the critical high-bandwidth connection between tens of thousands of researchers at national labs, universities, user facilities and supercomputer centers like NERSC. ESnet operates a dedicated multi-100-gigabits-per-second network that crisscrosses the country and has four similar links crossing the Atlantic Ocean for collaborations in Europe. Almost all network traffic passing to and from DOE laboratories traverses the network.

Although ESnet’s operations center is in Berkeley, about 40 percent of the staff live in other states across four time zones and are used to working offsite. The network operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, enabling scientists to seamlessly access data portals, transfer massive research data sets, and tap into remote scientific instruments — all in real time from anywhere.

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