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Linux cluster used to map geothermal energy in Iceland

By Todd R. Weiss
February 26, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In early 2001, the Icelandic Energy Authority and Iceland's Institute for Meteorological Research bought a 12-node, 24-CPU Linux cluster computer from Linux Networx Inc. to help conduct 3-D simulations of Iceland's climate conditions and geothermal events.
Last summer, the two groups had Salt Lake City-based Linux Networx double the size of the cluster, bumping it up to 24 nodes and 48 CPUs to continue its research.
Now the system, which had a total cost of about $100,000, is successfully helping researchers understand past weather events in Iceland and learn how the country's topography influences its weather, according to Olafur Rognvaldsson, CEO of the Institute for Meteorological Research in Reyjavik.
In an announcement, Linux Networx said the cluster is also being used to help determine where geothermal power plants should be built that use underground natural stores of heat and water to provide energy.
More than 50% of the primary energy production in Iceland comes from geothermal energy, Rognvaldsson said, so the groups needed a way to accurately simulate geothermal reservoirs in three dimensions.
The updated cluster was completed last summer, when 12 more nodes, each featuring dual Intel Pentium III 1.26-GHz processors, were added to the original 12 nodes, which featured 24 Intel Pentium III 866-MHz CPUs. One additional host node is used for administration of the cluster, and an assortment of SCSI and Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) hard disks is used for storage, with the ATA disks in a RAID-5 configuration.
Linux was the only choice considered when building the system, Rognvaldsson said. "There was nothing else in mind," he noted. The applications used for the research are Linux- or Unix-based, he said, and using Linux saves money that would have otherwise been spent for costly licensing.
The cluster replaces a group of old workstations, including an old Alpha, that had been assembled since 1999. It is also helping the two groups investigate the causes of weather events such as heavy precipitation and strong windstorms.

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