CSIRO eyes petascale supercomputer for Pawsey Centre

The agency will kick off construction of the centre in 2012

The proposed Pawsey Centre building layout

The proposed Pawsey Centre building layout

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is on the hunt for the petascale supercomputer that will underpin its Pawsey Centre, scheduled to be in place by 2014.

The centre is to be located in Kensington, Western Australia, and was first outlined in May 2009 when the Federal Government allocated $80 million, under its Super Science Initiative, to its establishment.

The aim is to crunch data for scientific research projects including the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) project and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio astronomy telescopes, which are pegged to have a combined usage of just 25 per cent of the centre’s computing resources. It will also support other areas of science including geoscience, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

The agency will complete the project in two parts, with phase one to encompass the delivery of a real-time computer (RTC) along with a base system for the petascale computer by October 2012. The RTC will support both the ASKAP and the MWA projects in the processing of real-time data and the production of data for ongoing research.

Phase two will involve support for system design, porting and tuning of the system in order to achieve sustainable petaflop performance levels in April 2014.

“By deferring some of the upgrade for 18 months, it will allow newer technology to be implemented with better price-performance, i.e. more capacity, from 2014 onwards and smoother step up,” agency documents read.

“The split delivery is designed to ensure that the project can benefit from any advances that will become available in 2013 and 2014.”

According to agency documents, the supplier of the new petascale supercomputer will also provide the RTC due to interoperability issues, but notes the systems may be separated to prevent the users of one system interfering with the other and vice versa.

“The Petascale system will be a research facility, and will thus not require real-time levels of availability,” agency documents read. “Sufficient protection must be provided so that there is no single point of failure in critical parts such as the file systems, and batch servers, and so that these can be shut down without loss of data in the event of power supply loss.

“The RTC has more critical needs, to service the data flow from large and expensive facilities. It needs to be able to accept data with a lead-time of perhaps 5 seconds at any time.”

A number of additional components are also being sought, including a hierarchical storage management (HSM) system, a tape library, networking components including a firewall and border router, Ethernet fabric, along with virtual machines and systems integration.

Due to issues of interoperability, the agency has requested that applicants that apply to provide the petascale supercomputer and real-time computer also submit applications for the additional components.

Construction of the centre will begin in 2012, with the 1000 square metre main building to house the ICT infrastructure with an additional floor below for electrical, water and network connections for the facility. A separate building will also be built to house mechanical machinery.

The facility is run by iVEC, established in June 2000, which is a joint venture between the CSIRO, Curtin University of Technology, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University and the University of Western Australia.

“The biggest challenge faced by iVEC as we enter the age of Petascale computing is ensuring that Australian researchers are in a position to make effective use of such supercomputers,” agency documents read. “This is a daunting challenge, as it requires a paradigm shift for researchers to embrace highly parallel computer programs.”

CSIRO first outlined the Pawsey Centre plans in January 2010 with the agency stating that it would spend up to $5 million on a "high-availability container-based Linux cluster with a high speed, low latency interconnect, globally accessible file system, UPS and appropriate cooling infrastructure" high performance computing system.

Further procurement details were released in May this year.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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Tags ASKAPSquare Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescopePawsey High Performance Computing CentreCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

More about CowanCSIROCSIROCurtin UniversityCurtin University of TechnologyEdith Cowan UniversityEdith Cowan UniversityFederal GovernmentiVECKensingtonLinuxMurdoch UniversityMurdoch UniversityPathfinder HoldingsTechnologyUniversity of Western Australia

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