CSIRO receives deep learning supercomputer from Dell EMC

With a budget of AU$4 million, Australia's research organisation signed Dell EMC to build its new artificial intelligence-focused scientific computing system, Bracewell.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has welcomed a new supercomputer to its Canberra campus, with Dell EMC sending the new Bracewell system live earlier this month.

The new large-scale scientific computing system is expected to expand CSIRO's capability in deep learning, further its artificial intelligence (AI) progress, and allow for the exploration of virtual screening for therapeutic treatments, traffic and logistics optimisation, modelling of new material structures and compositions, machine learning for image recognition, and pattern analysis.

One of the first research teams to benefit from the new processing power will be Data61's Computer Vision group, which develops software for a bionic vision solution that aims to restore sight for those with profound vision loss.

Bracewell will help the research team scale their software to tackle new and more advanced challenges, and give them the ability to use much larger data sets to help train the software to recognise and process more images.

"This is a critical enabler for CSIRO science, engineering, and innovation," said Angus Macoustra, CSIRO deputy chief information officer and head of scientific computing. "As a leading global research organisation, it's important to sustain our global competitiveness by maintaining the currency and performance of our computing and data infrastructures."

Macoustra said the new system will nearly double the aggregate computational power available to CSIRO researchers, and will help transform the way the organisation conducts scientific research and development.

"The new Bacewell cluster is a key facility to power innovation and research," he added.

The Bracewell system comprises 114 PowerEdge C4130 servers with Nvidia Tesla P100 GPUs, NVlink, dual Intel Xeon processors, and 100Gbps Mellanox EDR InfiniBand interconnect.

It boasts 1,634,304 CUDA Compute Cores, 3,192 Xeon Compute Cores, and 29TB of RAM.

Bracewell runs a dual operating system, supporting both Linux and Windows requirements.

With a budget of AU$4 million, CSIRO went to tender in November for the new supercomputing system to replace the existing Bragg accelerator cluster.

Speaking with ZDNet at the time, Macoustra said the Bragg system was used by the organisation to solve big data challenges in fields such as bioscience, image analysis, fluid dynamics modelling, and environmental science.

The Bracewell system replaces the Bragg accelerator cluster and is named after Ronald N Bracewell, an Australian astronomer and engineer who worked in the CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory during World War II, and whose work led to fundamental advances in medical imaging.

Dell EMC was also awarded a AU$1.2 million contract for the expansion of CSIRO's Pearcey supercomputing system earlier this month.

Named after British-born Australian IT pioneer Dr Trevor Pearcey, who led the CSIRO project team that built one of the world's first digital computers, the Canberra-based Pearcey supercomputer is used to support the organisation's data-driven research to help combat the likes of post-childbirth complications in women.

The upgrades from Dell EMC now sees Pearcey comprise 349 PowerEdge M630 compute nodes, with the additional 119 boasting dual Intel Xeon 10 core CPUs, 128GB RAM, and an FDR InfiniBand network connection that will move data across the supercomputer at 7GB/s per node with ultra-low latency.

The system also contains four individual PowerEdge R90 nodes, each with 3 terabytes of memory for large data-workloads such as data analytics or life science; 7,300 Xeon compute cores; and 52TB of memory.

CSIRO received the Pearcey system in March last year, but in the space of 12 months, Dell EMC ANZ high-performance computing lead Andrew Underwood said the size and complexity of scientific workloads that CSIRO researchers are running on the system have continued to increase.

It is expected the expansion will enable CSIRO researchers to tackle even larger scientific simulations and datasets.

"High-performance computing technologies are increasingly becoming an essential part of Australian industry, as they allow enterprise, government, and academia to compete in global markets where the pace of innovation is 10-times faster than it was a decade ago," Underwood told ZDNet.

"The expanded Pearcey supercomputer will achieve faster results, enable bigger discoveries, and drive the creation of intellectual property from CSIRO's talented and experienced research and professional staff."

Monash University received an M3 high performance supercomputer upgrade last year, using Dell's super compute platform powered by GPU giant Nvidia.

Similarly, the Faculty of Science at the University of Western Australia also welcomed its own high-performance computing cluster to its Perth campus to assist with computational chemistry, biology, and physics.

The CSIRO also went to tender in September to find a new Advanced Technology Cluster to replace the decommissioned Fornax system at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, a national supercomputing joint venture between the CSIRO, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University, and the University of Western Australia.

With a budget of AU$1.5 million, the CSIRO specified the new ATC was to meet the needs of the radio astronomy research community and high-end researchers in other areas of computational science, such as geosciences, nanotechnology, and biotechnology.

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