New Supercomputer Brings Deep Learning Capabilities to CSIRO

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has deployed a Dell EMC supercomputer outfitted with NVIDIA’s P100 GPUs.  The system, known as “Bracewell,” will nearly double the computational power available to CSIRO researchers.


Source: CSIRO


The new machine was built by Dell EMC for $4 million, and is comprised of 114 PowerEdge C4130 servers hooked together with EDR InfiniBand. Aggregate memory across the entire system is 29 TB. Each server is equipped with four NVIDA P100 GPUs and two Intel Xeon 14-core CPUs. The GPUs alone represent over 2.4 petaflops of peak performance.

From a flops perspective, that would easily make it the most powerful supercomputer in Australia. Before Bracewell came online, the most powerful supercomputer in the country was Raijin, a combined Fujitsu- Lenovo system installed at the National Computational Infrastructure National Facility (NCI-NF), in Canberra. It has a peak performance of 1.875 petaflops (1.676 Linpack petaflops), powered by a combination of Xeon CPUs, Xeon Phi processors, and NVIDIA P100 GPUs.

One of the early CSIRO’s users of Bracewell will be the CData61 Computer Vision research group working on bionic vision. The team, led by Associate Professor Nick Barnes, developed software designed to help restore sight for people with severe vision loss.

"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 said.

"This new system will provide greater scale and processing power we need to build our computer vision systems by optimization 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."

In addition to boosting the bionic vision work, the system will also provide computational support for a number of science and engineering efforts at CSIRO, including research in virtual screening for therapeutic treatments, traffic and logistics optimization, modeling of new material structures and compositions, and machine learning for image recognition and pattern analysis.

Bracewell was installed over a period of just five days spanning the end of May and beginning of June. The system came online in early July.

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