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Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Protects the Amazon with SGI Compute and Storage Systems


SGI Delivers Up To 5X Speed-Up on Large Ocean and River Model Simulations for Petrobras Environmental Containment Strategies

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (May 21, 2007)—For projects ranging from protecting the Amazon to international grid computing, the Center for Parallel Computing (NACAD) at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro: UFRJ) has added to its existing SGI (NASDAQ: SGIC) computational resources with the purchase of SGI® Altix® 450 server, SGI® Altix® XE cluster, and SGI® InfiniteStorage technology.

One of the main projects the new SGI Altix 450 server will be used for is the massive PIATAM Project, funded by Brazil’s national oil and gas company, Petrobras, which is dedicated to the clean development of oil and gas resources in the Amazon. Translated from Portuguese, the acronym PIATAM means Potential Impacts and Environmental Risks of the Oil and Gas Industry in the Amazon.

At approximately 3900 miles long, the Amazon River is the world’s second longest river and produces about 20 percent of all fresh water pumped into the world’s oceans. During the dry season, the river can be almost 7 miles wide at some points. During the rainy season, parts of the river flowing through the Amazon River Basin, which drains into the Southern Atlantic Ocean, can be almost 25 miles wide. The environmental impact of an oil spill or gas leak from the interior would be devastating. At UFRJ, the Center for Parallel Computing’s role is to help Petrobras assess the risk of potential environmental damage stemming from either boats carrying oil in the Amazon River or leaks and/or explosions from the rich natural gas reserves transported via Petrobras pipelines.

“We are doing some prototype computations, large simulations of water flows in the environment, such as red currents, and the new Altix 450 has definitely increased our computational capability,” said Professor Alvaro L.G.A. Coutinho, Center for Parallel Computing and Department of Civil Engineering, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “We are experiencing speed-up by at least a factor of 5 on the prototypes using the SGI Altix 450, and we expect a significant speed-up to escalate for HPC grid use and on the PIATAM project as well, which means we can run more and larger containment strategies for spills or leaks.”

The UFRJ Center for Parallel Computing primarily runs Princeton Ocean Model (POM) software, the Modular Ocean Model (MOM) of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (NOAA-Princeton University) and the Community Atmospheric Model (CAM) from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR-USA), for the simulations of fluid interactions on previous generation SGI systems, and now, the new, more powerful SGI Altix 450 server. The Center again chose SGI systems to provide researchers with the flexibility of SGI® NUMAflex™, SGI’s globally shared-memory architecture to process the very large, data-intensive ocean and river models and atmospheric, and accelerate that data processing.

“We chose the Altix 450 for speed, for shared memory, and to continue to have the unique SGI NUMAflex architecture, because we do research on parallel computing too, and we had to provide processing power to our varied users. The Altix 450 provides a very flexible configuration: you can use as it as shared memory machine, you can use it as MPI machine, and that satisfies a very broad set of users, ranging from ocean models in shared memory to large fluid flows in an MPI application,” added said Professor Coutinho.

The Center will use the new SGI Altix 450 high performance computing system and SGI® Altix® XE cluster systems as two of three “legs” of a university-wide grid that is being implemented this year. The grid will link to other Brazilian universities and the high-speed e-science research grid network, EELA (E-infrastructure shared between Europe and Latin America), shortly thereafter.

“The modeling and simulation needed to protect the ecological balance and the biodiversity of the world’s biggest tropical forest is a complex task that requires the use of systems that empower scientists instead of forcing them to manage computers,” said Michael Brown, Sciences Segment Manager, SGI. “The selection of a combination of Altix, Altix XE and InfiniteStorage solutions by UFRJ demonstrates the power, flexibility and ease of use of these solutions that they can be used together to address the full range of environmental modeling problems. Environmental protection is a global challenge that links together researchers from around the globe, and UFRJ’s use of these systems in a grid that supports users at the university, Brazilian and international levels demonstrates their commitment to stay at the forefront of this effort.”

The Center for Parallel Computing, part of the UFRJ Graduate School of Engineering (COPPE), supports many projects, mostly in engineering, computer science and the environment, and uses a mix of home-grown code and third-party applications. As part of the planned university-wide grid, the Altix 450 will be available for scientists, particularly in physics, biophysics and engineering research. UFRJ’s Biophysics Institute purchased the first Quad Core Intel® Xeon® processor-based SGI system in Brazil, the SGI Altix XE cluster system, with a total of 96 cores. The SGI Altix XE system will be used for genomics research on HIV and malaria, and will also be a server, or a second “leg,” of the university’s huge effort on grid computing.

The Center for Parallel Computing at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro selected an SGI Altix 450 with 32 Intel® Itanium® 2 processors running Novell’s SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server 9 and an SGI InfiniteStorage 120 system, which incorporates the performance and reliability of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) disk drives for mission critical applications, with 8 X 300GB scratch disk. The Biophysics Institute at UFRJ purchased an SGI Altix XE cluster system with 28 Quad Core Intel® Itanium® Xeon® processors and 96GB of memory in late December 2006. Installation began in March 2007.

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