Tuesday, 20 October 2020 15:09

New supercomputer for Pawsey Centre

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre executive director Mark Stickells Pawsey Supercomputing Centre executive director Mark Stickells

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre has announced its biggest ever upgrade – an HPE supercomputer capable of performing at up to 50 petaFLOPs, which is 30 times the compute power of Pawsey's Magnus and Galaxy systems.

The new supercomputer will be based on the HPE Cray EX architecture, with AMD Epyc CPUs and AMD Instinct GPUs. The upgrade also includes an expanded Cray Clusterstor E1000 storage system.

It will be delivered in two stages. Phase 1, to be completed by Q3 2021, will provide a 45% increase in raw compute power compared with the Magnus and Galaxy systems, yet it will be just one-fifth of the size. Phase 2 should be completed by Q2 2022.

The new supercomputer will be at least ten times more power efficient than Magnus and Galaxy. Pawsey uses a groundwater cooling system specially developed by CSIRO, which is offset by a 118kW solar photovoltaic system.

The as yet unnamed system will be used to support Australian researchers in fields such as medicine, artificial intelligence and radio astronomy. Pawsey's systems are currently used by more than 1600 researchers.

The agreement with HPE is valued at $48 million. The tender process was led by CSIRO as an agent for Pawsey.

The project is part of the $70 million capital refresh program funded by the Australian Government .

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre executive director Mark Stickells said "Supercomputers like those at Pawsey are increasingly crucial to our ability to conduct world-class, high-impact research. The upgrades we're announcing are a critical move in strengthening Australia's position in the global research environment and playing a part in major global research projects, from helping in the fight against COVID-19 to working with the precursor telescopes to the Square Kilometre Array. The new supercomputer will not only deliver next generation compute power to meet these growing requirements, it will enable entirely new research projects with global reach and impact."

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre board chairman and Infrastructure WA chairperson John Langoulant said "Pawsey is already a world-class facility for more than 1600 researchers. Today's supercomputer upgrade will significantly boost this national effort, elevating the role of Australian research on the global stage and creating opportunities for new high-impact research that benefits Western Australia, the nation and the world."

HPE APAC-India general manager of HPC and AI Nick Gorga said "Scientific breakthroughs made by leading research centres, such as Pawsey Supercomputer Centre, inspire us to continue empowering the community with powerful supercomputing solutions that combat the broadest range of challenges. We look forward to collaborating with AMD to build Pawsey the most powerful system for their region and boost Australia's research capabilities to advance missions from understanding human viruses to discovering new galaxies."

CSIRO postdoctoral fellow in dark magnetism Chenoa Tremblay said "We're using Pawsey's existing supercomputers to help scan more than ten million stars and analyse hundreds of terabytes of data to search for molecules that provide potential evidence of extraterrestrial life. Doing this on my laptop would take 25 years, so having the power of the new supercomputer will help bring our research timelines from years down to days, giving us the power we need to analyse hundreds of thousands of images quickly."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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