Sun, Stanford Create Earth Science Research Center

A new earth sciences facility backed by Sun may lead to new applications for a variety of industries, including oil and gas exploration and earthquake prediction.
Sun Microsystems and Stanford University on Tuesday will announce a collaborative program to create the Stanford Computational Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) research facility.

It will be used for analysis, simulation, and prediction of earth science processes and systems, leading to the potential creation of new hardware and software in a variety of industries.

Sun is contributing hardware, software, and program support.

The facility officially opens on Tuesday.

It can help develop applications for use in industries including oil and gas exploration, seismic imaging, and earthquake simulation. The new center will also help Sun develop better hardware and software to support a variety of industries. This is according to Jerry Harris, director of CEES and professor of geophysics in the Stanford School of Earth Sciences.

"The kinds of applications that we use and develop are quite diverse," Harris says. "And those different applications live best on different kinds of hardware, so we had to work together with Sun to put together a somewhat heterogeneous system of hardware."

Sun and Stanford have installed a SunFire E6900 server with 24 dual-core UltraSparc 4+ processors and 192 Gbytes of memory. Also installed is a cluster of 64 SunFire V20 servers with dual-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices, and four V40z servers with four dual-core Opteron processors each.

Instead of trying to fit all their applications onto one particular compute architecture, "we've analyzed the applications and have tried to build coupled models where the applications run particular platforms then exchange messages with the applications that run other platforms," says Joerg Schwarz, director of life science and health care at Sun.

The creation of CEES will be able to pull in cooperative efforts from a variety of companies like Chevron, Exxon, BP, Halliburton, and Schlumberger that otherwise would not participate in a project together, Harris says.

"One of our long term goals is create a mixed environment where we can have an intellectual meeting place where these groups can come together and start thinking about the challenge of creating more realistic models to describe complex earth systems," he says.

Stanford will also use the center to demonstrate to Sun what new types of hardware and software it would like to see developed in the future.

"In the long run, hopefully they can design systems that are better suited for this vertical market," Harris says.