State-of-the-art supercomputer

State-of-the-art supercomputer

Murdoch University's new half a million dollar supercomputer housed in the Centre for Comparative Genomics is revolutionising the way WA's scientific community conduct their research.

Facility co-director Professor Matthew Bellgard said the computer has already set new standards in data crunching and design.

"The device is the baby of the iVEC Informatics Facility, in the Centre for Comparative Genomics," Professor Bellgard said.

“It was commissioned in July: the state government recognised through iVEC the need to have increased capacity for high-performance computing within the State."

Scientists in all universities, industry and government departments need powerful computers to crunch their numbers.

“It has 512 processors and a massive amount of internal computer memory,” Professor Bellgard said.

Another reason for the supercomputer’s success is its Linux operating system.

“It aims to service the needs of the State’s biomedical and agricultural community but also services the needs of the broader scientific community,” Professor Bellgard added.

“In chemistry and physics, where scientists are doing work with a lot of data, they need both computational capacity and memory to store results at the same time.”

Scientists using the Murdoch supercomputer have had their expectations exceeded since it came online.

“It’s incredibly useful to have the possibility to run this stuff through a cluster computer,” Murdoch’s Carlo Pacioni said.

“I probably saved 20 days of work already!”

UWA’s Michael Thomas says it is almost four times faster than what he was previously using, while Vimal Kapoor at the same institution describes the machine as a “miracle”.

The Murdoch supercomputer is a vital part of a linked IT organisation called iVEC which also has supercomputers at UWA and the Australian Resources Research Centre at Technology Park in Bentley.

“The computer architecture for the Informatics Facility supercomputer is completely different to the other iVEC machines,” Professor Bellgard said.

The $500,000 supercomputer does look different to other supercomputers in one important way.

A trail of red and blue pipes from the machine provides a clue to some nifty thinking and leading use of technology.

“It’s water-cooled exactly like a car engine,” said Facility co-director Adam Hunter.

Rather than pump masses of refrigerated air into the room, the heat generated by the machine is dealt with at source.

“It cools right where the heat is being produced,” Mr Hunter said.

“Instead of cooling the room, we cool the hot air coming off the computers and blow that into the room.

“It’s just like the radiator in front of a car engine, and much better environmentally.”

The Centre for Comparative Genomics hopes to triple or quadruple the capability of the supercomputer in the next 12 to 18 months.

iVEC provides expertise and resources to industry and government to incorporate advanced computing technology as part of their operations. For more information on the Industry Uptake program, contact Ronald Jones or Daniel Grimwood via industry@ivec.org.


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