Australia Goes on Spending Spree in Supercomputing Market

By Michael Feldman

July 26, 2012

While governments in much of the rest of the world are wringing their hands over stagnant or shrinking R&D budgets, Australia is buying up HPC machinery like there is no tomorrow. Just this week, Cray, IBM, and SGI announced supercomputing deals that would send the vendors’ latest and greatest HPC equipment Down Under. In this case, the three systems are headed to various research facilities in New South Wales and Western Australia.

The biggest new Aussie system, by far, is the upcoming Cray “Cascade” supercomputer destined for the Pawsey Centre in Perth, Western Australia. That system will also include an unspecified amount of Sonexion storage, Cray’s new Lustre-based line that they added to their portfolio last year. According to Cray, the total deal, including products and services, will amount to over $21 million.

Cascade is Cray’s next-generation supercomputer, which is due out in 2013. It will be based on the upcoming Aries interconnect and support Intel processors – Xeon CPUs as well as the new Xeon Phi (MIC) manycore coprocessors. The Pawsey machine will incorporate both chips at least in the second phase of its deployment in 2014.

That system is expected to deliver 1.2 petaflops, which would make it about 40 percent more powerful than “Avoca,” Australia’s current top supercomputer. According to the Pawsey announcement, the machine will use “a combination of Intel Ivy Bridge, Haswell and MIC processors, although the precise configuration is still to be determined.” The first iteration of the system, scheduled to be installed in 2013, will top out at 300 teraflops, which likely means no coprocessor acceleration.

Astronomers will use the Pawsey Cascade system to analyze data collected by the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescopes. Besides sifting through astronomical data, the system will also be available to support research projects in other areas, including geosciences, nanotechnology and biosciences.

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre was set up three years ago to support the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) radio telescope project, as well as a number of other scientific programs. The center is owned by Australia’s major public research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and is managed by iVEC, a joint supercomputing consortium that includes CSIRO, the Western Australia government, and a number of universities. Back in 2009, the feds gave $80 million to iVEC to set up the facility, which is now known as the Pawsey Centre. A big chunk of that funding is now going to the Cascade deployment.

Last September, iVEC acquired an SGI cluster, known as Fornax, also intended for radio astronomy support and general science duty. At 96 nodes, that system is much less powerful than the upcoming Cascade system. Each Fornax node contains two 6-core Intel Xeon Westmere CPUs and an NVIDIA Tesla GPU. Although the Fornax procurement took place last fall, the system apparently has yet to be deployed.

The machines currently up and running at Pawsey include HP and SGI clusters. The HP machine is an 87 teraflop ProLiant Blade system with 9600 cores of Westmere-generation CPUs, stitched together with QDR InfiniBand. It sports half a petabyte of external storage. The SGI Altix 3700 Bx2 is an even smaller system made up of 192 CPUs, 366 GB of memory, and 12 TB of disk. At 1.2 petaflops, the upcoming Cascade system will increase Pawsey’s number crunching capacity by a factor of 10.

Radio telescope research has apparently become a growth industry Down Under. The second Australian supercomputer procurement announced this week is also slated to support the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescopes mentioned above. This machine is an IBM iDataPlex cluster and according to the press release will be used to “convert the radio waves into wide-field images of the sky that are unprecedented in clarity and detail.”

The iDataPlex machine is a dx360 M3 rackmount cluster, build for density and energy efficiency. Each node houses two Xeon Westmere-EP CPUs and up to 192 GB of RAM. The specific size and configuration for the Murchison machine was not specified, but according to the announcement the cluster will be capable of crunching about 50 terabytes of data per day at a rate of up to 8 gigabytes per second.

In this case, the supercomputer will be housed on-site at Murchison Radio Observatory, which is located about 700 km north of Perth in the Australian Outback. That will give the system quick access to the data collected by the 4,096 radio antennas at the facility, enabling the images to be processed in real-time. And even though the system is being deployed in Australia, the Murchison radio telescope work is supported by an international consortium, which also includes New Zealand, India, and the US.

The third new Aussie machine is an SGI cluster, and is headed to Sydney, on the other side of the continent. The system was procured by Intersect, a local non-profit group that provides IT services, including HPC, to public and private researchers in New South Wales.

At 33 teraflops, the SGI system is medium-sized by today’s standards. It consists of 100 nodes — 88 small compute nodes, 10 large ones, and 2 admin/system console nodes. All are of the dual-socket Sandy Bridge (Xeon E5-2600) persuasion, with 256 GB of memory on the large nodes and 64 GB on the small ones. Everything is hooked together with QDR InfiniBand. The procurement also includes 101 TB of storage.

According to the announcement, the new cluster will support research in areas such as quantum chemistry, computational chemistry, chemical engineering, climate science, mechanical engineering, bioinformatics and physics. In this case, no mention was made of radio telescope work, most of which is located in Western Australia.

It was probably just a coincidence that these three HPC deals were announced a few days apart. Australia doesn’t have the wherewithal to ramp up its HPC capability and become a world leader in supercomputing anytime soon. With an R&D budget about 1/20th the size of the US, the country can only do so much.

However compared to much of the world, Australia is in an enviable position right now. The economy there is enjoying solid and sustained growth, with low unemployment, low interest rates, manageable debt, and a nice investment pipeline. Even a slowing economy in China, a recessionary environment in Europe, and an uneven recovery in the US are unlikely faze the Australians very much. If there was ever a time to gain some ground in supercomputing, this would be it.


Related articles

Australian Supercomputer Simulates Common Cold’s Susceptibility to New Drug

Another Super for Aussie Research

Two Countries to Host Square Kilometre Array

Astronomers Look to Exascale Computing to Uncover Mysteries of the Universe

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

UCSD, AIST Forge Tighter Alliance with AI-Focused MOU

January 18, 2018

The rich history of collaboration between UC San Diego and AIST in Japan is getting richer. The organizations entered into a five-year memorandum of understanding on January 10. The MOU represents the continuation of a 1 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Tennessee), Satoshi Matsuoka (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown and Spectre security updates on the performance of popular H Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

Fostering Lustre Advancement Through Development and Contributions

January 17, 2018

Six months after organizational changes at Intel's High Performance Data (HPDD) division, most in the Lustre community have shed any initial apprehension around the potential changes that could affect or disrupt Lustre Read more…

By Carlos Aoki Thomaz

UCSD, AIST Forge Tighter Alliance with AI-Focused MOU

January 18, 2018

The rich history of collaboration between UC San Diego and AIST in Japan is getting richer. The organizations entered into a five-year memorandum of understandi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fostering Lustre Advancement Through Development and Contributions

January 17, 2018

Six months after organizational changes at Intel's High Performance Data (HPDD) division, most in the Lustre community have shed any initial apprehension aroun Read more…

By Carlos Aoki Thomaz

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This