by George Nott

CSIRO doubles compute power with $4m HPC

Jul 18, 2017
Artificial IntelligenceCollaboration SoftwareEducation Industry

CSIRO has begun using its new $4m Dell EMC supercomputer, which will soon help to bring vision to the blind through the use of multi-layered neural networks.

The system will greatly expand CSIRO’s deep learning capability, and will open up new areas of research the organisation said.The machine is expected to clock speeds in excess of one petaflop.

Named ‘Bracewell’ – after Ronald N. Bracewell, an Australian astronomer and engineer who worked in the organisation’s Radiophysics Laboratory during World War II, and whose work led to fundamental advances in medical imaging – the system was installed in CSIRO’s Information Management and Technology (IMT) Canberra data centre facility over five days last month.

CSIROput the call out for tenders in November 2016to build the new system, to replace its existing BRAGG supercomputer, which will be offered for use to universities and research institutions.

“This is a critical enabler for CSIRO science, engineering and innovation. As a leading global research organisation, it’s important to sustain our global competitiveness by maintaining the currency and performance of our computing and data infrastructures,” said Angus Macoustra, CSIRO deputy chief information officer, and head of scientific computing.

“The power of this new system is that it allows our researchers to tackle challenging workloads and ultimately enable CSIRO research to solve real-world issues. The system will nearly double the aggregate computational power available to CSIRO researchers, and will help transform the way we do scientific research and development.”

Bracewell, is built on Dell EMC’s PowerEdge platform. The infrastructure includes other partner technology, such as GPUs for computation and InfiniBand networking, which pieces all the compute nodes together in a low latency and high bandwidth solution, designed to be faster than traditional networking.

The system has 29TB RAM and includes 114 PowerEdge C4130 with NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs, NVLINK, dual Intel Xeon processors and 100Gbps Mellanox EDR InfiniBand, totaling 1,634,304 CUDA Compute Cores, 3,192 Xeon Compute Cores and Bright Cluster Manager Software 8.0.

Bionic vision boost

Bracewell will eventually be used for research in areas as diverse as virtual screening for therapeutic treatments, traffic and logistics optimisation, modelling of new material structures and compositions, machine learning for image recognition and pattern analysis, CSIRO said.

The first team to benefit from the explosion in available processing power is Data61’s Computer Vision group, who are developing software for a bionic vision trial taking place later this year.

The trail involves three participants being fitted with a ‘bionic eye’. The implant stimulates the retina – sent to vision processing centres in the brain – based on signals received wirelessly of visualisations recorded via a head-mounted camera.

Trials of bionic vision can now be conducted outside of the lab

“This new system will provide greater scale and processing power we need to build our computer vision systems by optimisation of processing over broader scenarios, represented by much larger sets of images, to help train the software to understand and represent the world. We’ll be able to take our computer vision research to the next level, solving problems through leveraging large scale image data that most labs around the world aren’t able to,” CSIRO associate Professor Nick Barnes explained.

The participants will be the same individuals that took part in an early lab-based study. Bracewell will allow them to test the vision system out in the real-world.

“When we conducted our first human trial, participants had to be fully supervised and were mostly limited to the laboratory, but for our next trial we’re aiming to get participants out of the lab and into the real world, controlling the whole system themselves,” Barnes added.

“To make this a reality, we need to build vision processing systems that show accurate visualisations of the world in a broad variety of scenarios. These will enable people to the world through their bionic vision in a way that enables them to safely and effectively interact in challenging visual environments.”

Deep sea learning

Another area of research to use the new machine involves a monitoring system for Australia’s fisheries agencies. CSIRO is seeking a solution to process vision recorded on fishing boats, so it can be used to determine the types of fish caught, size of catch and location, and monitor local fishing operations.

Dell EMC was behind CSIRO’s Pearcey system which was installed in 2016 and a number of other systems for Australian universities such as the University of Melbourne’s Spartan supercomputer, Monash University’s MASSIVE3 and the University of Sydney’s Artemis.

“Dell EMC continues to be committed to creating technologies that drive human progress,” said Angela Fox, commercial and public sector leader, Dell EMC ANZ. “The research performed at CSIRO will change the way we live and work in the future for the better. We’re proud to play a part in evolving the work happening at CSIRO and look forward to enabling scientific progress for years to come.”