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Feb 28, 2024

NREL Powers Energy Research with VAST

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Posted by

Kyle Lamb, Principal Engineer, VAST Data Federal

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) stands at the forefront of energy efficiency technology and research. Today it harnesses the power of several computing systems, including Eagle and its latest supercomputer, Kestrel, which is poised to become the leading renewable energy research computing system in the world. 

I’m happy to share a great new video highlighting VAST’s work with this great organization. First, a little background is in order.

In 2021, as NREL was embarking on building Kestrel, HPC Administrator Mike Solari realized that the classical HPC storage systems NREL deployed were no longer addressing the full scope of workflows they needed. Because NREL’s legacy storage systems were isolated to individual clusters and designed for large-scale HPC requirements, namely writing HPC memory for checkpoint restart, they were ill-suited for emerging workflows such as AI/ML, which require much higher levels of small IO (random reads, specifically) as well as access from multiple systems.  

As AI/ML workloads started to percolate at NREL in 2021, Mike and the NREL team sought a new solution for a project named “Campaign Storage” that would utilize flash to address AI/ML workflows and provide similar high-performance access across all clusters and systems within the data center, a first at NREL.   

In addition to performance challenges, system stability and reliability were of concern. Uptime is paramount for its users, and NREL has suffered many outages over the years with legacy systems. 

VAST emerged as the solution for NREL’s diverse infrastructure requirements. The versatility of the VAST Data Platform in handling large datasets, including detailed wind and solar data for North America, were pivotal in NREL’s decision. 

Furthermore, VAST’s architecture allowed for the system to be connected to multiple compute clusters via support for multiple network technologies both high-speed HPC cluster interconnects and standard high-speed Ethernet. This allowed Mike to connect the VAST platform to multiple clusters and address multiple use cases to include standard high-speed file access via NFS, object storage, and container solutions all from the same simple to manage platform. 

In this video Mike details how VAST is making an impact at NREL: 

I’m excited to discuss how NREL is using VAST to solve critical energy research challenges next month at the annual Rice Energy HPC Conference in Houston. Join me at our session next Wednesday, March 6, at 1:35pm CT if you’re attending the event!

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