November 05, 2020 - by CSCS

In 2015, CSCS launched twin high-density, GPU-based Cray CS-Storm systems named Escha and Kesch that were devoted to MeteoSwiss’ daily operational weather forecast. The system names were inspired by the highest peak of the Albula Alps in Switzerland, named Piz Kesch in German and Piz d’Es-cha in Rumanch.

Escha and Kesch had a unique design: The computational power of these multi-GPU systems consisted of 12 hybrid computing nodes for a total of 96 NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPU accelerators and 24 Intel Haswell CPUs each. This hardware configuration aimed to generate more realistic simulations of weather phenomenona by using a high-resolution weather model with a grid of 1.1 kilometres tuned for a multi-GPU architecture.

MeteoSwiss was the first meteorological service to switch to a GPU-based computer architecture. Thus, Escha and Kesch were able to compute weather models with an increased resolution more efficiently and quicker than before, meeting the state-of-the-art weather forecast requirements put forth by MeteoSwiss. This innovative approach earned CSCS and MeteoSwiss the Swiss Information and Communications Technology (ICT) award in 2016.

In 2020, after 5 years of outstanding service, Escha and Kesch have been retired as operational clusters. The systems have been replaced by a successor, called Arolla and Tsa, that is similar in technology but also provides innovative solutions in respect to fail-safe and on-demand computing capabilities.