​It takes two to Tango: eRSA partners with Dell EMC for new research supercomputer

The non-profit IT service provider has welcomed a new high-performance computer and research cloud infrastructure, Tango.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

eResearch South Australia (eRSA) has boosted its services to the state's research, government, and business sectors, announcing the arrival of its new high-performance computer (HPC) and research cloud, Tango.

Built on Dell EMC infrastructure, and the cloud on VMware Cloud Foundation, Tango is expected to provide South Australia's researchers with a platform to accelerate innovation, eRSA infrastructure manager Paul Bartczak told ZDNet.

As eRSA is a research-focused joint venture between the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and the University of South Australia, Bartczak said big data and complex data analytics are increasingly becoming a part of the research landscape.

Founded in 2007, the not-for-profit incorporated entity provides "not normal IT" services to researchers and commercial users in the state, including high-performance computing, cloud computing, big data storage, management and analysis, software development, and consultancy.

"In order to keep up with modern research demands, having a powerful HPC and cloud platform is a necessity," Bartczak explained. "Tango allows researchers and commercial clients alike to process large amounts of data quickly and easily, and the software-defined network capability provides a secure environment to work in. Tango is highly scalable, which means it can scale easily to keep up with increased user demand."

Bartczak expects Tango will provide its users with freedom in the Research and Innovation Sandbox, which is a service allowing users to experiment with different combinations of technology and test the best ways of processing analytics, big data, complex modelling, and forecasting.

"People come to us and ask what makes us different from the likes of Amazon or Azure or other traditional IT service providers -- we're here to support and foster that innovation, development, and research space, and provide that environment for people [to experiment]," he explained.

"The cost of trial and error can be quite significant, but we like to see ourselves as enablers in that area, giving people this environment to try, fail, keep developing, and, once they require production-grade systems, then they can move onto a traditional service provider to implement things."

eRSA caters for a range of groups furthering research on terrestrial ecosystems, ancient DNA, physics, chemistry, genomics, biology, arts, humanities, and everything in between, Bartczak said, adding that the organisation boasts a large user base.

"We're here to basically create solutions -- whether it's cloud or HPC-related -- for any discipline," he added.

Tango comprises Dell PE R730 server with Intel Xeon Processor E5-2690v4 35M, connected with Dell Z9100-ON 100GbE software-defined network switches.

The HPC packs 32GB RDIMM 2400MT/s DDR4 SDRAM; 200GB SSD 6Gbps; and Mellanox ConnectX-4 Dual Port 25GbE DA/SFP.

The cloud boasts Dell PE R730xd Servers connected with Intel Xeon Processor E5-2680 v4 35M; 32GB RDIMM 2400MT/s DDR4 SDRAM; 1.6TB SSD 6Gbps and 6TB 7.2K RPM NLSAS; and Mellanox ConnectX-4 Dual Port 25GbE DA/SFP.

According to Andrew Underwood, Dell EMC's Australia and New Zealand HPC lead, Tango has been built to require minimal touch from the eRSA teams to allow them to focus on the scientific outcomes of the state's researchers instead of keeping the lights on.

"One of the really nice things that I like about what our partnership with eRSA is this system is really going to be helping power the South Australian ecosystem of research and innovation, as well as startups," Underwood told ZDNet.

"One of the things that eRSA has really looked at, and been quite visionary in, is that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) have not been so fortunate when it comes to accessing high-performance computing in the past -- they typically have tight budgets and limited people resources, so the new Tango system ... will mean that SMEs who are either wanting to access the system themselves or partnering with one of the universities in South Australia will be able to access this."

Tango will replace eRSA's previous HPC Tizard that will be decommissioned on August 31.

Last week, Dell EMC announced that it will be providing Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology with an HPC to power research into astrophysics and gravitational waves, with the university seeking to further prove the science behind Einstein's theory of general relativity.

OzSTAR, which loosely stands for the Australian supercomputer for theoretical astronomical research, will be built by the tech giant at a cost of AU$4 million, and will be used by the Swinburne-led Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

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