CSIRO set to buy last SKA supercomputer

Summary:CSIRO has gone to market with a tender for a supercomputer, which will complete the final stage of a jointly owned supercomputer centre to be used for research.

CSIRO has gone to market with a tender for a supercomputer, which will complete the final stage of a jointly owned supercomputer centre to be used for research.

In 2009, the government allocated $80 million to a joint venture — between CSIRO, Curtin University of Technology, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University (ECU) and The University of Western Australia (UWA) — called iVEC, to set up a supercomputing centre that would meet the needs of researchers, and, specifically, the needs of the radioastronomy research community.

The government-allocated money was to be spent on supercomputers to be housed in three different facilities, with CSIRO now looking to buy the third, and final, one.

iVEC has already bought the two other supercomputers for its three sites, which will act together with the latest supercomputer over fibre to deliver a bigger thrust of computing power. One of those supercomputers is a 87.20-teraflops cluster using HP ProLiant Blade servers housed at Murdoch University in a shipping container-type datacentre. Another supercomputer, housed at the University of Western Australia, was bought from SGI.

The tender response will need to address how they would provide for a petascale supercomputer and a real-time computer, HSM storage, tape library, networking (firewall, border router and VPN and Ethernet fabric), data analysis engine and systems integration.

The Pawsey Centre will be purpose built for supercomputing, with a 1000-square metre white space for IT infrastructure. Construction is due to start in early 2012, with access for the vendor to be provided by November 2012. The maximum power usage for the supercomputer will be 2.3 MW — even though CSIRO had hoped to purchase a system that used much less.

The supercomputing infrastructure will be bought in two stages (October 2012 and April 2014), so that the centre can benefit from an expected jump in capabilities.

One major research project to be supported by the centre is the Australian Square Kilometre Array (SKA) pathfinder, which is the Australian section of the global SKA project. Australia recently submitted a bid to be the country that heads up the SKA operations. Another supported project will be the Murchison Widefield Array telescopes at the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory.

Those two projects will use up 25 per cent of the supercomputing resources, with another 25 per cent to be used for researchers who are conducting studies on large amounts of data; a further 30 per cent to be set aside for researchers at iVEC partners; and 15 per cent to be used for the National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme. The last 5 per cent will be used to support pilot or start-up projects, or address other needs, such as code scaling or urgent computing requirements.

Topics: Government, Government : AU, Innovation


Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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