by Byron Connolly

Pawsey rigs up petascale supercomputer

Sep 09, 20143 mins
Big DataData CenterGovernment

The $80 million Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia has completed the final upgrade of its ‘Magnus’ machine, which provides processing power in excess of a petaflop.

Magnus, the largest research computer in the Southern Hemisphere, is a Cray XC30 system with more than 35,000 cores using Intel’s new Xeon’s E5-2600 v3 processors. A petaflop machine can complete one quadrillion floating point operations per second.

It follows the launch in August 2012 of Pawsey’s terascale supercomputer, dubbed Fornax.

The Pawsey facility is run by iVEC, a collaboration between the CSIRO, the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Curtin University, and Edith Cowan University.

The CSIRO has been eyeing a petascale computer since late 2011 to crunch data for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), and Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio astronomy telescopes projects.

Magnus will also be used by researchers in the areas of nanotechnology, high energy physics, medical research, mining and petroleum, architecture and construction, and urban planning.

Pawsey Supercomputing Centre executive director, Dr Neil Stringfellow, said Pawsey currently runs 100 science projects being run by 500 plus users at any one time.

Dr Stringfellow said researchers from Curtin University had already used the machine – running the earlier Intel Xeon E5-2600 v1 processors – to do lung simulations using a ‘moving mesh’ computational approach.

“This helps us to understand how the lungs work – it’s the largest lung simulation in the world,” he said.

This research will help people with asthma, for example, by creating improved aerosol medications, he said.

Scientific researchers were so keen to get access to computing power provided by this machine that Pawsey was three times oversubscribed in the number of CPU hours that were available to give away.

There was demand for 250 million CPU hours from researchers in mining, geoscience, bioinformatics, and ‘blue sky’ research in astronomy around galaxy formations.

“What we have here is a world-class scientific instrument,” he said.

Dr Stringfellow told CIO Australia that Pawsey had no plans to install a quantum computer in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 chips include platform telemetry sensors and metrics for CPU, memory and I/O usage, as well as thermal sensors that monitor airflow and outlet temperature.

A cache monitoring feature also provides data that lets orchestration tools intelligently place and rebalance workloads, resulting in faster completion times.

It also conducts analysis of performance anomalies due to competition for cache in a multi-tenant cloud environment where there is little visibility into what workloads consumers are running, Intel said.

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