by Byron Connolly

ANU launches Australia’s largest supercomputer

Jul 31, 20133 mins
Big DataComputers and PeripheralsData Center

A $26 million supercomputer capable of completing 170,000 calculations for every human on the Earth every second was unveiled on Wednesday at the Australian National University (ANU).

The 1.2 petaflop Fujitsu PRIMERGY cluster at the ANU’s National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) performance computing centre has been in production since mid-June after several months of performance testing.

The NCI is funded through a $50 million co-investment from the ANU, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and other research-intensive universities supported by the Australian Research Council.

The centre was opened by Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. He was joined by ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young; Bureau of Meteorology CEO Dr Rob Vertessy; director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Professor Andy Pitman, and CEO of Geoscience Australia, Dr Chris Pigram.

Around 30 per cent of the processing power of this machine – named Raijin after the Japanese god of thunder, lightning and storms – is being used for calculations in the area of Earth system science.

“When the Bureau of Meteorology ramps up to full steam, the use in this area will go to around 50 per cent, which is what it was always intended to do,” Professor Lindsay Botten, director of the NCU told, CIO Australia on Wednesday morning.

“The rest is used [in the areas of] physical sciences, advanced materials, the biosciences, in particular in modelling molecular dynamics – a whole range of uses.”

Associate Professor Andy Hogg from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences discusses how the supercomputer is used in the area of Earth system science

All but 50 cores of the 57,472 Intel Xeon Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz processor cores are currently in use, he said. The supercomputer also features 160TB of main memory and 10PB of disk storage.

Here’s a time lapse video of the supercomputer being built

Professor Botten said NCI has seen impacts on “science outputs” with this machine that weren’t possible previously. He said that one user who works in fuel engineering at the University of New South Wales used 32,000 cores to model the next-generation of biodiesel fuels; while creating astrophysical simulations and ocean models can also use between 4000 and 6000 cores.

The machine is also enabling the Bureau of Meteorology to make better predictions about currently occurring extreme weather events occurring in the space of minutes, weather patterns “five to 10 days out”, as well as predict climate change patterns over decades and even centuries.

Governments, of course, are particularly interested in longer-term weather predictions because they will influence climate change policies, said Professor Botten.

“A machine of this scale is just starting to knock on the door of being able to make impacts in these areas,” he said. “In a few years’ time, a machine of this scale will become of the operational machine of the Bureau of Meteorology.”