​HPE's SGI scores AU$1.5m CSIRO supercomputing contract

SGI will be replacing the decommissioned Fornax system at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has awarded a high performance computing contract to SGI.

For a cost of AU$1.5 million, the Hewlett Packard Enterprise-owned SGI will be replacing 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.

In the request for tender (RFT) published last year by the CSIRO, Australia's peak research body specified the new Advanced Technology Cluster (ATC) must 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.

SGI was required to meet the needs of two technology components for the new ATC.

It was requested by the CSIRO that all compute nodes in Component A include at least one Xeon Phi processor with a Knights Landing architecture, and all compute nodes to be connected by an Omni-Path interconnect with a bandwidth of at least 100Gbps per node and able to mount the existing Pawsey Lustre scratch and group filesystem.

Additionally, all compute nodes under Component A will be connected by a 100Gbps EDR InfiniBand interconnect and a minimum of 64 GB of ECC DDR memory.

All compute nodes in Component B will be connected by an EDR InfiniBand interconnect with a bandwidth of at least 100Gbps per node. They will be capable of mounting to the existing Pawsey scratch and group filesystem, via the Pawsey FDR Infiniband infrastructure with uplinks to the existing Mellanox SX6356 series switch and at least 80Gbps of bandwidth.

All compute nodes in Component B will also be connected by a 100 Gbps Omni-Path interconnect, with the GPUs supporting NVLINK, and a minimum of 64GB of ECC DDR memory.

It is expected the SGI system will fully support RedHat Enterprise Linux 7.2 or higher -- or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12.1 or higher -- across all nodes

In May 2015, the Western Australian government announced AU$21.6 million in funding over five years for the Pawsey Supercomputer Centre.

Operating in his capacity as Science Minister, at the time, WA Premier Colin Barnett said the funding would help the state attract and retain the staff needed to run the facility, and to train data scientists.

At the time, the WA government said that it had given the centre AU$30 million in funding to date. The federal government had also funded the centre AU$80 million as of mid-2015.

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre currently looks after four systems: Epic, Fronax, Magnus, and Galaxy.

Epic is a decommissioned 100 teraflop cluster-based system with a high-performance interconnect installed at Murdoch University.

Fornax, the system to be replaced by SGI, is a heterogeneous computing environment installed within an existing building on the University of Western Australia campus in Perth. Before its decommission, it contained a number of HPC technologies including GPUs, dual interconnect, large memory, and local storage to support data intensive science and inform the procurement of a replacement for the Magnus system.

Magnus is a Cray XC40 petascale system, which is currently the most powerful public research supercomputer in the southern hemisphere. Magnus is supported by a smaller commodity cluster, Zeus, for pre/post-processing and visualisation.

Galaxy is a Cray system with a similar architecture to Magnus, dedicated to supporting the radio astronomy data processing of the ASKAP and MWA telescopes.

Both Magnus and Galaxy are installed in the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

The CSIRO kicked off the hunt for a new supercomputer to replace its existing Bragg accelerator cluster in November, a system the organisation currently uses to solve big data challenges in fields such as bioscience, image analysis, fluid dynamics modelling, and environmental science.

With a budget of AU$4 million, the CSIRO anticipates the "heterogeneous" system that combines traditional CPUs with coprocessors will be able to achieve around 1 petaflop of performance.

In March, the CSIRO welcomed the Dell-powered Pearcey supercomputer to its Canberra site to support research in areas such bioinformatics, fluid dynamics, and materials science.

A month prior, Monash University received a M3 high performance supercomputer upgrade, using Dell's super compute platform and 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 last year to assist with computational chemistry, biology, and physics.

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