Swinburne University Makes Leap to Petascale with New Supercomputer


Melbourne’s Swinburne University is going to deploy its first petascale supercomputer, a Dell EMC machine that will be tasked to support cutting-edge astrophysics and other scientific research.

The $4 million supercomputer, known as OzStar, will be comprised of 115 PowerEdge R740 nodes, each of which will be equipped with two of Intel’s Xeon “Skylake” Scalable processors and two NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs. An additional four nodes are to be powered by Intel Xeon Phi processors. The nodes will be connected with the Intel Omni-Path fabric, operating at 100Gbps. Peak performance is expected to be in excess of 1.2 petaflops. The system will also be equipped with five petabytes of Lustre storage, comprised of Dell EMC PowerVault MD3060e enclosures.

OzStar will eclipse the existing Green II systems (gSTAR and SwinSTAR), SGI machines installed at Swinburne in 2011 and 2012, which are accelerated by the now-ancient NVIDIA Tesla C2070 and K10 GPUs. The even-older Green machine, which is still in operation, is a Dell PoweEdge cluster deployed in 2007. That system is powered by Intel Xeon “Clovertown” processors.

According to Chris Kelly, Dell EMC VP and GM for the Compute and Networking group covering Australia and New Zealand, the new OzStar system will spend around a third of its time processing gravitational wave data collected by advanced LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) installations in the US. The LIGO detectors are able measure ever-so-small ripples in space-time caused large-scale cosmic events, such as the collision of black holes and neutron stars, and the explosions of supernovae.

Sifting through this LIGO data has enabled researchers to detect the locations of these objects in the far reaches of the universe and study their behavior. However, such data analysis requires enormous amounts of computation, and that’s why Swinburne’s new petascale supercomputer is expected to be an important addition to gravitational-wave astrophysics, a research domain that began in earnest with the detection of the first such waves in 2015. “It’s exciting to think [OzStar] will be making advances in a field of study that didn’t really exist two years ago, “ wrote Kelly.

The system is currently being installed at Swinburne’s Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing, which is the headquarters of the Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, also known as OzGrav. The new center, which opened for business earlier this year, was set up by the Australian Research Council (ARC), with Swinburne – specifically, the Swinburne University of Technology – as the lead institution. However, access to OzStar will be available to astrophysicists throughout Australia.

Beside gravitational wave studies, the system will also be used to support research in molecular dynamics, nanophotonics, advanced chemistry and atomic optics. OzStar is scheduled to be up and running by the end of August and available for full production in September.

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