CSIRO receives new Dell-powered Pearcey supercomputer

The CSIRO has welcomed its new supercomputer to the nation's capital, aimed at helping the organisation further its research in areas such as bioinformatics, fluid dynamics, and materials science.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has received a new high performance computer (HPC) to support research in areas such bioinformatics, fluid dynamics, and materials science.

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 Pearcey supercomputer will be used to support the organisation's data-driven research to help combat the likes of post-childbirth complications in women.

CSIRO researcher Dr Dayalan Gunasegaram will be using Pearcey for the modelling work behind the development of an improved nylon mesh for use in pelvic organ prolapse surgery, which he said has the potential to benefit one in five Australian women that have surgery for the condition.

"Current mesh implants that haven't been well designed for this purpose can lead to pain and discomfort, so we've teamed up with researchers from Monash University to develop an improved mesh for supporting prolapsed organs and treating the condition more effectively," Gunasegaram said.

"Using the high performance computing capability of the Pearcey cluster we can simulate the stressful forces a patient would experience, such as during coughing or running, and model a variety of different situations to assess the mesh under stress.

"The computer simulations allow us to better understand the cause-and-effect relationships between mesh parameters, such as pore size and their expected in-vivo performance after implantation, and really focus on the areas with the most influence."

One of the biggest benefits from the supercomputer will be the capability to reduce the amount of physical tests CSIRO will be conducting on animals, with Gunasegaram saying the technology minimises the "need" for these invasive and cruel procedures.


The CSIRO's new Pearcey Supercomputer

(image: supplied)

The CSIRO-designed Pearcey is a Dell HPC system that delivers 230 nodes supporting data-intensive research and computational modelling.

Pearcey comprises of Dell PowerEdge 13th generation M630 blade servers, each with 128GB RAM, and four PowerEdge R930 nodes each with 3TB of memory. Servers are connected via 1:1 Mellanox FDR InfiniBand Networking. It is built with Bright Cluster Manager, enabling a software-defined approach to management, and 16 of the PowerEdge M630 blade servers are configured with 512GB RAM and use ScaleMP software connected architecture to create a single, high memory, 8TB cluster under a single operating system.

"It's vitally important we work closely with our customers to make sure we architect the right solution for their needs," Andrew Underwood, manager for Dell APJ High-Performance Computing, said.

"Pearcey is the result of more than three years of close collaboration with CSIRO's Information Management and Technology team to clarify their objectives, and consolidate their infrastructure."

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

Monash University has invested AU$4.1 million in this new AU$5.7 million project to fund M3, which is located at the Multi-modal Australian ScienceS Imaging and Visualisation Environment (MASSIVE) in Clayton, Victoria.

The supercomputer comprises 50 Nvidia Tesla K80 GPU co-processors with 2 GPU chips per card; 8 Nvidia Grid K1 GPUs for medium end visualisation, which will support up to 32 concurrent users; 1,700 Intel Haswell CPU cores; a 1.15 petabyte Lustre parallel file system capable of reading data at a peak of 24 gigabytes a second; and a 100 gigabytes per second Ethernet Mellanox Spectrum network.

"The MASSIVE supercomputer is something that Dell is very excited to be a part of," Underwood said. "It's a strong partnership with Monash University, the Australian Synchrotron, and the CSIRO -- it's something that we're very excited to be a part of because we can see that the amount of data being generated by these researchers is just growing exponentially, but also the ability to make use and turn this data into information is getting more difficult as the data rapidly expands.

"High performance computing to Dell is more around doing things faster."

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

The University of Queensland took a dive into big data technology after signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Australian high performance computing player Xenon Systems for a bespoke supercomputer in April last year, designed to crunch the numbers for large research projects.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology expects to have its AU$77 million Cray XC-40 supercomputer up and running by mid-2016. The Department of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Group should have its own supercomputer later this year after going to tender in September, seeking a high performance Linux-based machine to support aerodynamic simulation and execute its Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations.

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