Pawsey Reveals Name of Australia’s Fastest Research Supercomputer

February 24, 2021

Feb. 24, 2021 — A cheerful marsupial will lend its name to Australia’s fastest new research supercomputer, with Pawsey Centre confirming its new system will be named Setonix – the scientific name for the quokka, dubbed the world’s friendliest animal.

The HPE Cray EX supercomputer will be 30 times more powerful than Pawsey’s existing systems, Magnus and Galaxy, and will be used to help accelerate research projects such as the Square Kilometre Array.

Pawsey Centre Executive Director Mark Stickells says the name Setonix was chosen as a nod to the unique marsupial, which has become a WA icon and a global tourist attraction.

The quokka is found in Australia’s South West corner, with most of the marsupials — known for a cheeky grin and tolerance of humans — living on Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Perth.

The island, known to the Whadjuk Noongar traditional owners as Wadjemup, is home to about 10,000 quokkas, who hop the streets, nest in the hills and pose for selfies with tourists. 

But while the quokka has become a beloved star of social media, it is also vulnerable to predation by feral animals, habitat loss, and fire.

“Pawsey has long had an affinity with the quokka — one of our existing systems was used by UWA Associate Professor Parwinder Kaur to map the quokka genome as part of an international conservation effort,” Mr Stickells said.

“Selecting Setonix as the name for our new supercomputer recognises our pride in being a national supercomputing facility located in WA, and the work we do in enabling science and accelerating discovery.”

Setonix marks a step change in Pawsey’s supercomputing firepower, which currently supports the work of more than 1600 Australian and international researchers from its Perth facility.

From discovering new galaxies to developing improved diagnostic tests for coronaviruses, Pawsey’s high-performance facilities are being used to solve some of the most important research questions in the world.

The existing supercomputers at the Pawsey Centre, Magnus and Galaxy together have 1.83 petaFLOPS of raw compute power.  Setonix will have 50 petaFLOPS of compute power, and will be the fastest supercomputer in Australia once fully operational by mid-2022. 

“Our existing flagship system capacity is equivalent to about 33,000 laptops working in parallel, so a problem that would take a year for a single computer to solve working step by step takes our current system about 12 minutes,” Mr Stickells said.

“Setonix will be 30 times more powerful than that.”

Setonix will be delivered in two stages, with the first stage, due later this year, immediately increasing the computing power of the centre by 45 per cent. Phase two will be available by the middle of next year.

The system has been designed to give Australian researchers an edge in emerging research fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Setonix will help reserchers around the world manage the data collected through the Square Kilometre Array. It will support our role as part of the international consortia helping advance COVID research. 

“It will help us better understand climate change, the warming of oceans, the genomics of plants that can tolerate drought — or, the genome of a furry little marsupial on a remote island in WA.

“Setonix will reassert Australia’s importance to international scientific collaboration.”

About the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

The Pawsey Centre is a world-class high-performance computing facility accelerating scientific discoveries for Australia’s researchers. Named for Australian scientist Joseph Pawsey, known as one of the pioneers of Australian radio astronomy for his work in the field of interferometry, the Centre enables science and accelerates discovery, by contributing to the delivery of globally important research. Pawsey is currently serving over 40 organisations and achieving unprecedented results, in domains such as radio astronomy, energy and resources, engineering, bioinformatics and health sciences.

The Pawsey Centre is an unincorporated joint venture of CSIRO – Australias national science agency, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and The University of Western Australia.

The Pawsey Capital Refresh project is supported by the Australian Government through a $70 million grant. Pawsey is also supported by the Australian Government under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and related programs through the Department of Education.


Source: Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

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