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Home » News & Media » News » 2020 NOAA Bronze Medal - Jeff VanBuskirk

2020 NOAA Bronze Medal - Jeff VanBuskirk

May 20, 2020

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GSL’s Jeff VanBuskirk has been awarded a NOAA Bronze Medal “For identifying and implementing innovative data center upgrades to increase efficiency and resiliency for Research Supercomputing in NOAA.” The NOAA Bronze Medal is awarded for superior performance characterized by outstanding or significant contributions that have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of the operating unit. It is the highest medal awarded by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Jeff serves as the manager for five NOAA operational high-density supercomputers hosted by GSL within an HPC data center, ultimately supporting NOAA’s long-term goal of a Weather-Ready Nation. Timely and accurate forecasts are essential for weather-readiness, and these supercomputers are critical to the research and development of numerical models producing such forecasts. Jeff’s efforts have improved operations of the HPC Data Center used for numerical model R&D, and also align with the OMB Data Center Optimization Initiative as a targeted improvement achieving cost savings.

Cooling systems are critical to HPC systems to prevent overheating. The air conditioning systems in the HPC data center were inefficient, challenging to maintain, and they used excessive amounts of power. Jeff investigated and installed improved technology to retrofit the current air conditioners with innovative electronically-commutated fan technology that increased the efficiency and resilience of data center operations. He performed market research with vendors to decrease cost, reduce repair times, and increase resiliency. He also negotiated energy rebates from the power company which further reduced costs. Once procurement was complete, Jeff scheduled and oversaw the retrofit and installation, ensured proper commissioning of the new systems, and led the training of staff and maintenance technicians with minimal disruption to science, staff, and customers.

The results of Jeff’s actions resulted in a 64% reduction in power requirements, a cost savings of $30,270 per year, a carbon footprint reduction of 44.6 metric tons per year, and reduced maintenance costs will save $6,528 per year. Qualitatively, these systems also have increased resiliency in that they have fewer parts to fail as well as the ability to run in a degraded state.

This accomplishment affects other OAR Laboratories as well as the NWS. The supercomputers within the HPC data center provide 51% of the computing for weather prediction R&D and are critical to its success. The HPC center serves as the sole computing system for HFIP as well as the development and demonstration system for transitions of OAR weather prediction research to NWS. The frequency, duration, and risk of unexpected downtime is decreased, thereby increasing the efficiency of weather prediction R&D, and more effectively facilitating the transition of OAR research to NWS operations.

This effort served as a proof-of-concept and will be used as a model for replacing air conditioning systems for other data centers in GSD. This effort also serves as an example for retrofitting older and outdated equipment in NOAA data centers with high-efficiency systems and cutting-edge technology.

Congratulations Jeff!