New APAC supercomputer aims for top 30

The Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) has announced details of its next generation supercomputer, which according to executive director John O'Callaghan, has a chance to be one of the top 30 in the world.

Christened AC, or Altix Cluster, the system to be provided by SGI will consist of 1680 Intel Itanium2 processors, 3.6TB of memory, and 120TB of storage.

Brocade fibre channel switches will carry data and SuSE Linux will be the operating system used.

Installation will start next month and should be complete by June.

O'Callaghan declined to release the cost of the new system but did say it was in the region of the original tendered amount of $12.5 million. He estimates that 11 Teraflops of computing power will be achieved by the new system and hopes to reach a Top 500 ranking of 30, a position not seen by a local supercomputer since the present national facility was commissioned three years ago.

AC will be a cluster and shared memory system consisting of 32-processor SGI Altix nodes. With 1680 processors in total, that equates to around 52 nodes.

"We looked at the overall offer and there were a lot of benefits," O'Callaghan said. "SMP, while useful, was not a requirement but it is good for our mix of applications. Many jobs require lots of memory so it's a good balance of memory, disk, processing power, and interconnects."

The system will be installed in such a way that the number of processors can be easily expanded.

"If you think of where we were three and a half years ago, we bought into 1 teraflop so it has effectively doubled every year," he said.

The supercomputer will provide a computing environment for more than 600 researchers across areas such as the environment, bioinformatics, astronomy, chemistry and physics.

SGI's South Asia Pacific managing director Bill Trestrail said the APAC national facility provides a world-class service for Australian researchers and SGI is proud to be the supplier of the next generation system for the facility.

"This tremendous record of service delivery has been made possible by the outstanding skills of the staff working in the National Facility," he said.

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