NASA launches earth portal on its most power supercomputer [UPDATED]

Yesterday NASA launched its earth science portal, the NASA Earth Exchange, on the 640 TFLOPS Pleiades system, the SGI Altix ICE that currently holds the number 6 slot on the Top500. According to coverage at InformationWeek, NEX follows in a long line of friendly front ends to complicated supercomputing workflows and applications (though few have been fielded on resources in the top 10 of the list)

NASA logoThe application — NEX for short — will allow even unsavvy users to take advantage of NASA supercomputing power via the NEX Collaborative Portal, a Web-based portal through which members of the Earth science community will be able to model and analyze the information in their own virtual environments. The portal will also include collaboration features like social networking that will allow scientists to share research results with one another or work together on projects.

The launch is timed to coincide with Earth Week, so feel the green. According to a description on the NEX web page

The NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) represents a new collaboration platform for the Earth science community that provides a mechanism for scientific collaboration and knowledge sharing. NEX combines state-of-the-art supercomputing, Earth system modeling, workflow management, NASA remote sensing data feeds, and a social networking platform to deliver a complete work environment in which users can explore and analyze large datasets, run modeling codes, collaborate on new or existing projects, and quickly share results among the Earth science communities.

The work environment provides NEX members with community supported modeling, analysis and visualization software in conjunction with datasets that are common to the Earth systems science domain. By providing data, software, and large-scale computing power together in a flexible framework, NEX reduces the need for duplicated efforts in downloading data, developing pre-processing software tools, and expanding local compute infrastructures—while accelerating fundamental research, development of new applications, and reducing project costs.

NASA has been working with computational portal provider Parabon Computation, with announcements about that collaboration going back as far as January of last year (see here, and here). That collaboration was expanded into a $600,000, two-year effort in February of this year; here is a portion of that press release

Built upon Parabon’s Frontier Grid Platform, which manages some of the largest computational grids, the new Modeling and Simulation as a Service (M&SaaS) solution will provide web-based Platform as a Service tools. These tools – such as a browser-based source code editor, online collaboration utilities, and virtualized build and runtime environment management interfaces – will allow developers to more efficiently create and modify a wide variety of high-performance computing (HPC) applications. In addition, the web-centric nature of the project will allow researchers around the world to work together seamlessly, removing barriers that have heretofore hampered scientific collaboration, dramatically increasing productivity for NASA and other organizations.

If I was a betting man I’d say that NEX is probably built on Frontier Grid Platform, but I’m not, so I’ll just send a few emails instead. Let you know what I find out.

According to the NEX wiki, the portal will be available to researchers beginning in May.

[UPDATE: I got in touch with the fine folks at Parabon today, and they let me know that NEX is not built on their technology. Good thing I'm not a betting man.]

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