The best use of HPC in physical sciences? The envelope, please …

BrandPost By Janet Morss
Nov 16, 2021
IT Leadership

The Southern California Earthquake Center brings home an HPCwire Editor's Choice Award for u201cBest Use of HPC in Physical Sciences.u201d

Credit: Dell

The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) relies on the power of supercomputers to simulate why and how earthquakes occur, evaluate their effects, and help societies prepare for, survive and recover from quakes.

To that end, SCEC uses the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s Frontera supercomputer to produce dynamic models of earthquake processes. This work has helped SCEC improve the predictability of earthquake system models, simulate earthquake events and promote a safer society that’s more resilient to earthquakes.

For this work, SCEC has won an HPCwire Editor’s Choice Award in the “Best Use of HPC in Physical Sciences” category. The award was announced Monday, November 15 at SC21, the international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis.

This is an award that means a lot to people focused on HPC. Each year, the HPCwire Editor’s Choice Award winners are determined by the HPC reader community, so these are awards from people in the know. The awards recognize the industry’s most outstanding individuals, organizations, products and technologies.

At Dell Technologies, we’re honored to learn that SCEC has been recognized for the great work its researchers are doing as they draw on the power of the Frontera supercomputer at Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

Dell Technologies provided the primary computing system for Frontera, based on Dell EMC PowerEdge C6420 servers. The system has more than 8,000 two-socket nodes, more than 16,000 Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors and 448,448 cores. Frontera also incorporates several technical innovations, including Intel® Optane™ DC Persistent Memory for some large-memory nodes, CoolIT Systems high-density Direct Contact Liquid Cooling and a high performance HDR 200 Gb/s InfiniBand interconnect.

Fueled by a $60 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Frontera debuted on the TOP500 list in June 2019 as the nation’s fastest academic supercomputer and the world’s fifth most powerful high-performance computing system — with a peak performance rating of 38.7 petaFLOPS.

However, this really isn’t a story about HPC speeds and feeds. What truly matters is the work that SCEC facilitates. The Center, based at the University of Southern California, coordinates fundamental research on earthquake processes using Southern California as its principal natural laboratory. It supports core research and education in seismology, tectonic geodesy, earthquake geology and computational science.

“We study earthquakes — why they occur, how they occur and what kind of impact they have,” says Christine Goulet, Ph.D., Executive Director for Applied Science at SCEC, in a Dell Technologies case study. “We can’t predict earthquakes at this time, but we can prepare better if we know what to expect.”

And when it comes to earthquakes, better predictions equates to saved lives — and that’s what really matters.

To learn more about SCEC and its use of HPC systems in its research, see the Dell Technologies case study “Unlocking the secrets of earthquakes,” and watch the video. And to dive down into the results of the 2021 Editor’sChoice Awards, visit HPCwire.