PRACEdays18 Keynote Allan Williams (Australia/NCI): We’re Open for Business Down Under!

By Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek for HPCwire)

July 5, 2018

The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia hosted the third annual EHPCSW18 and fifth annual PRACEdays18 events which opened with a plenary session on May 29, 2018. The conference was chaired by PRACE Council Vice-Chair (June 2016-June 2017) Sergi Girona (Barcelona Supercomputing Center), and officially opened by PRACE Managing Director and Chair of the EHPCSW & PRACEdays OPC Serge Bogaerts. An official welcome was provided by PRACE Council Chair Anwar Osseyran (Dutch National HPC Center, SURFsara); and Minister of Education, Science and Sport Maja Makovec Brenčič.

Monday opened with the EXDCI workshop. Tuesday began with general session keynotes and split into one industrial and five scientific parallel tracks, with three workshops organized by EHPCSW partnering organizations and projects. In late afternoon, everyone reconvened for general sessions. Wednesday and Thursday featured a similar format with four parallel workshops each day, and Friday was reserved for private project meetings.

Wednesday’s keynote was by Allan Williams, the Associate Director for Services and Technology at the Australian National Computational Infrastructure (NCI). His talk, “Building a world-class national high-performance e-infrastructure for Australian research and innovation,” chronicled the history of Australia’s national cyberinfrastructure (CI). “We’re finally to the point where our program is research-driven and focused on national priorities, but it hasn’t always been that way,” he said.

Australia’s seven states comprise a land mass larger than Europe. Historically, centers sprung up ubiquitously from universities in several states beginning with the first at the Australian National University in Canberra in 1987. The co-investment between states and government wasn’t always well synced. “You may have found compute or storage at one location, but rarely both,” he said. It took years of trial and error before a fully-functioning federated program was established.

Two time zones separate their flagship national high-performance computing (HPC) centers. NCI in Canberra, the nation’s capital, is on the east coast, and Pawsey Supercomputing Center is in Perth on the west coast. Flying distance between them is 3,088 kilometers, or 1,919 miles. Travelling by car with an average speed of 70 mph takes more than 30 hours. But high-speed networks have closed geopolitical gaps, enable high-availability of resources and ensure the prospect of disaster recovery.

The two flagship centers, which once competed for government funding, are now collaborating and developing a joint strategy for the nation. Their leadership is collaborating to develop a more strategic plan to benefit Australian researchers. While there were lean years—zero capital funding in 2012, for example—they’ve managed to progress by innovating and developing integrated cloud, data and HPC services. In 2016, the Australian government asked Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr. Alan Finkel to develop a roadmap outlining the infrastructure needs for Australian researchers. After careful consideration, the government recently released their response to the roadmap, with funding support for an AU$1.9 billion for research infrastructure investments over the next 12 years. This boost in funding under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) scheme will see an initial investment over the next five years of AU$140 million for renewal of the nation’s HPC infrastructure between the two centers. In addition to HPC funding, the government has committed to a strategy of reviewing the roadmap every two years to ensure that it continues to align with researcher needs. The need for tightly integrated services has been recognized, and in addition to the AU$140 million for HPC, another AU$72 million for a shared cloud and storage research platform has been allocated to support the national priority research areas.

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre Acting Director Ugo Varetto also attended PRACEdays18 and said, “Australian researchers have access every year to over 250 Million CPU hours awarded purely on scientific merit though our HPC National Merit Allocation Scheme (NCMAS).” The scheme gives researchers access to The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre flagship system Magnus, NCI’s Raijin, MASSIVE at Monash University in Melbourne and the University of Queensland’s multi-node cluster, Flashlite. All are anchored by major HPC centers and interconnected via the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet). “The demand for HPC resources was three times over-subscribed last year, which demonstrated the endless thirst of Australian researchers for high-performance compute resources and the need to grow,” Varetto continued.

Increasingly it’s not just HPC services in isolation, but the integrated workflows of big compute, big data and data analysis in the cloud that are required by researchers to deliver scientific outcomes. However, to get the most out of these resources, dedicated expertise within the HPC computer centers is needed to assist researchers in developing and optimizing software codes for fast IO and integrated workflows.

Both facilities provide researchers across the country with access to large supercomputing resources. Pawsey currently has 45 staff members who support 1,500 researchers and 170 projects in domains such as radio astronomy, energy, engineering, bioinformatics and health sciences. One of the more notorious projects supported by the Australian centers is the Square Kilometer Array (SKA); one of the greatest scientific instruments of our time. With more than 60 personnel who help more than 4,000 researchers, NCI supports the full gamut of research, with a focus on climate, weather, earth system sciences and bioinformatics. National research data collections exceed 20 petabytes and serve as regional hubs for many international data sets, such as the Copernicus and Sentinel satellite data.

Serge Bogaerts (left) and Ugo Varetto signing the PRACE-Pawsey MoU at EHPCSW2018 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Australia, like other federated CIs, struggles to recruit and retain skilled personnel. “It’s especially challenging in Canberra since it’s one-fourth the size of Perth, but there is high demand for HPC and data analytical skills from the government and industry sectors,” said Williams. “We need to continually ‘grow our own,’ and are keen to benefit from lessons learned by other CIs that have built successful student programs,” he said. “Unfortunately, it has been difficult to organize teams to compete at the International Supercomputing Conference in Germany, or at the annual Supercomputing Conference in the United States because Australian university student exams fall in July and November,” he added.

“Both Australian centers welcome collaborations with industry partners and federated CIs,” said Varetto. Plans to participate in staff exchanges; visiting scholar programs; shared Tier-0 systems with United States, European Union and Japanese programs; innovative allocation strategies; group procurements; technical exchanges; shared student strategies; online courses; and more are on the horizon. A step towards realizing this was achieved recently when Pawsey signed an MOU with PRACE. “We hope that through close collaboration we can leverage this agreement nationally as we move toward a unified national HPC strategy,” he added.

The distance ‘down under’ doesn’t matter as much as it used to. The Australian Access Federation supports eduroam which facilitates access among 40 similar federations around the world, including the U.S. and most European countries. “AARNet is working with GÉANT and other providers to alleviate transoceanic network bottlenecks, so we expect international data transfers to improve in all directions, but most recently toward Singapore,” said Williams. Those who wish to learn more about AARNet, and how it peers with other high-speed networks in the region may wish to attend the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN’18) conference in Auckland, New Zealand August 5-9, and QUESTNet’18 September 26-28 in Cairns, Australia.

For more information about Australia’s federated CI, visit the NCI and Pawsey websites.

Read additional news about PRACEdays18 in HPCwire. Meanwhile, mark your calendars for #PRACEdays19 and #EHPCSW19 in Poznan, Poland, May 13-17, 2019.

Pawsey booth at the ISC High Performance conference in Frankfurt; photo provided by Pawsey.

About NCI

NCI, Australia’s national high-end research computing service, is a partnership between the Australian National University, CSIRO, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, research intensive universities and consortia support by the Australian Research Council, and medical research institutes. NCI is supported by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), with a large fraction of its operations sustained by co-investment from the partner organizations. Through its tightly-coupled, high-performance computing and data platforms, overlaid with internationally renowned expertise in computational science, data science and data management, NCI provides essential services that underpin the requirements of research and industry, today and into the future. For more information, please visit

About Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre is a world-class high-performance computing facility representing Australia’s commitment to the solution of Big Science problems. The facility provides researchers across the country, access to one of the largest supercomputers in the Southern Hemisphere. Pawsey is currently serving over 80 organisations and achieving unprecedented results, in domains such as radio astronomy, energy and resources, engineering, bioinformatics and health sciences. The Centre is focused on providing integrated research solutions by giving users simultaneous access to world-class expertise and infrastructure in supercomputing, data, and visualisation services. Pawsey is funded by the Western Australian State Government and the Australian Government National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS). For more information, please visit


The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) is an international non-profit association with its seat in Brussels. The PRACE Research Infrastructure provides a persistent world-class high performance computing service for scientists and researchers from academia and industry in Europe. The computer systems and their operations accessible through PRACE are provided by 5 PRACE members (BSC representing Spain, CINECA representing Italy, ETH Zurich/CSCS representing Switzerland, GCS representing Germany and GENCI representing France). The Implementation Phase of PRACE receives funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (2014-2020) under grant agreement 730913. For more information, see

About the Author

HPCwire Contributing Editor Elizabeth Leake is a consultant, correspondent and advocate who serves the global high performance computing (HPC) and data science industries. In 2012, she founded STEM-Trek, a global, grassroots nonprofit organization that supports workforce development opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) scholars from underserved regions and underrepresented groups.

As a program director, Leake has mentored hundreds of early-career professionals who are breaking cultural barriers in an effort to accelerate scientific and engineering discoveries. Her multinational programs have specific themes that resonate with global stakeholders, such as food security data science, blockchain for social good, cybersecurity/risk mitigation, and more. As a conference blogger and communicator, her work drew recognition when STEM-Trek received the 2016 and 2017 HPCwire Editors’ Choice Awards for Workforce Diversity Leadership.

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!

Russian and American Scientists Achieve 50% Increase in Data Transmission Speed

September 20, 2018

As high-performance computing becomes increasingly data-intensive and the demand for shorter turnaround times grows, data transfer speed becomes an ever more important bottleneck. Now, in an article published in IEEE Tra Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM to Brand Rescale’s HPC-in-Cloud Platform

September 20, 2018

HPC (or big compute)-in-the-cloud platform provider Rescale has formalized the work it’s been doing in partnership with public cloud vendors by announcing its Powered by Rescale program – with IBM as its first named Read more…

By Doug Black

Democratization of HPC Part 1: Simulation Sheds Light on Building Dispute

September 20, 2018

This is the first of three articles demonstrating the growing acceptance of High Performance Computing especially in new user communities and application areas. Major reasons for this trend are the ongoing improvements i Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Clouds Over the Ocean – a Healthcare Perspective

Advances in precision medicine, genomics, and imaging; the widespread adoption of electronic health records; and the proliferation of medical Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices are resulting in an explosion of structured and unstructured healthcare-related data. Read more…

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Gordon Bell Prize used Summit in their work. That’s impres Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

At HPC on Wall Street: AI-as-a-Service Accelerates AI Journeys

September 10, 2018

AIaaS – artificial intelligence-as-a-service – is the technology discipline that eases enterprise entry into the mysteries of the AI journey while lowering Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This