The Australian government has been busy on the supercomputing front. In just the last two weeks, the Australian Department of Defence and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology have both revealed major supercomputing updates.
The Department of Defence, for its part, unveiled a new supercomputer: Taingiwilta, named after the word for “powerful” in the language of the Kaurna people (an Aboriginal people in Australia). The press release from the Department of Defence said that the system will “play a vital role in the design, development and analysis of modern weapon systems and national security systems, and will be critical in supporting key AUKUS priorities including nuclear powered submarines, quantum technologies and artificial intelligence.”
Due to the nature of that classified work, specifications of the system have not been revealed, though the press release said that it is “up to a million times faster than a standard computer” and Defence Minister Richard Marles said that it “will be one of the 50 most powerful computers in the world” (a threshold around 10 Linpack petaflops on the most recent Top500 list).
“For much of the work done by our Defence scientists, data is critical,” Marles said. “But even more important than the data itself, is the ability to rapidly and reliably analyze and process that data. This high performance computing facility provides a secure and sovereign capability to do just that. The high performance computing capability not only provides Australia with a sovereign capability that allows us to pursue activities in our national interest, but it also gives us a strong foundation for even closer collaboration with partner nations.”
The Australian government received assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) in the development of Taingiwilta.
Taingiwilta also sports some beautiful artwork — seen above — which Chief Defence Scientist Tanya Monro explained in greater detail on Twitter. “In the background you can see an extraordinary new artwork made by three generations of the one Kaurna family,” Monro said. “It’s called Ngangk Mukarta Warpu Yerta and means ‘Women’s intelligence of the earth’. Thank you Aunty Buster, her son Corey and his daughter Nasyah. It’s stunning.”
The Bureau of Meteorology, meanwhile, has signed a three-year contract with HPE for $49.3 million AUD ($34.6 million USD) to procure a new “disaster recovery high-performance computing system.” Apart from the vendor, details of the system have yet to be disclosed. In mid-2020, the Bureau of Meteorology took delivery of a Cray XC50 system, but it is not clear how the new system will exist in relation to that preexisting system. A spokesperson for the bureau told iTnews that the new system will “allow for increased data sharing with other government agencies, additional research capacity and support… operations during peak periods of high-impact weather events[.]”
Pawsey Supercomputing Centre’s Setonix system, which is expected to become Australia’s most powerful supercomputer by the end of the year, has also been in the news of late. Setonix’s first phase went live for researchers in early July, and by early August, researchers had used the new system to create a highly detailed image of a supernova remnant. That impressive image is included below.