Computing Goes Super at the Kansas City National Security Campus

Jun 17, 2021, 10:41 AM

Curie, the Kansas City National Security Campus’s (KCNSC) latest high-powered computer (HPC), doubles the site’s computing capacity and supports advanced simulations needed to help solve some of the nation’s most complex national security challenges.

While a standard computer has a single CPU, HPCs have a network of nodes, each with multiple CPU’s and dedicated memory. They also use parallel processing, which breaks large problems, processes, or calculations down into smaller parts and then processes them all at once. As a result, these supercomputers can process problems that would be too large for an average computer to process quickly or even at all.

Named for physicist and chemist Marie Curie, Curie is the most powerful computer in KCNSC history. Although not a direct comparison, Curie has power similar to over 1,000 high-end desktops combined. Early testing has already shown a 20 percent improvement on OpenFOAM, a computational fluid dynamics program, over the KCNSC’s next fastest HPC. Additionally, new graphics processing unit-based nodes have drastically increased the power for materials simulations, specifically in the area of molecular dynamics and Density Functional Theory methods.

Deploying new HPCs is not as easy as plugging in a computer and turning it on; they require integration from multiple teams. For KCNSC, Curie fundamentally changed how a new HPC is deployed. The team automated processes and created a more uniform experience by using task and configuration management software and replacing documentation with precise code and scripts. This automation has made configurations and tools more universal, reducing the need for staff to be onsite to execute this deployment. Not only has this has been especially helpful during the pandemic, but it will also streamline future HPC deployments.

As KCNSC innovates with Digital Engineering, HPCs like Curie will help support the transition to a digital end-to-end enterprise. "The practice of applying supercomputers to complex computational problems is an important element in KCNSC's digital transformation and our science-based approach to accelerating weapon program schedules," says Troy Hartwig, lead for the Modeling and Simulation Center of Excellence. 

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