Australia’s newest Cray supercomputer is online in Perth

Cosmos Magazine


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Australia’s newest supercomputer is already providing science with exciting new opportunities.

Named Setonix after Setonix brachyurus (commonly known as the Quokka) the supercomputer has produced a detailed image of a supernova remnant.

Data used to create the image were collected with CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope (the precursor telescope to the Square Kilometre Array telescope to be built in WA) at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, about 800 km north of Perth.

That data was then transferred to the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre in Perth via high-speed optical fibre.

Within 24 hours of accessing the first stage of Pawsey’s new Setonix system, CSIRO’s ASKAP science data processing team began integrating their processing pipeline into the new system and created the image of the supernova remnant, which is the structure resulting from the explosion of a star in supernova.

The supernova remnant is bounded by an expanding shock wave, and consists of ejected material expanding from the explosion, and the interstellar material it sweeps up and shocks along the way.

The new supercomputer is being installed in two stages. The first stage is underway, and will deliver 2.5 petaFLOPS of Raw computer power; 134 terabytes of Memory and consumes 194kW/power per petaFLOP, which compares to 587 kW/petaflop of the earlier 2014 Magnus+Galaxy supercomputer.

However when fully installed later this year Setonix will include 50 petaFLOPS of raw compute power, 548 terabytes of Memory and consume 46 kW per petaflop.

Dr Pascal Elahi, Pawsey’s supercomputing applications specialist, said deploying this first phase of Setonix has increased the computing power of the Pawsey Centre by 45 per cent.

“Processing data from ASKAP’s astronomy surveys is a great way to stress-test the Setonix system and see what is possible.”

Ska2 askap telescope
SKA2 ASKAP telescope / Credit: ASKAP

While Setonix is ramping up to full operations so is ASKAP, which is currently wrapping up a series of pilot surveys and will soon undertake even larger and deeper surveys of the sky. Setonix will be used to process the data collected by ASKAP.

Dr Wasim Raja, a researcher on CSIRO’s ASKAP team, said the supernova remnant’s dataset was selected to test the processing software on Setonix, given the challenges involved in imaging such a complex object.

“Setonix’s large, shared memory will allow us to use more of our software features and further enhance the quality of our images. This means we will be able to unearth more from the ASKAP data.”

When fully operational, Setonix will be up to 30 times more powerful than Pawsey’s earlier Galaxy and Magnus systems combined.

The supercomputer is an AU$48 million Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Cray EX supercomputer

Setonix is made from eight cabinets although stage one comprises of only two computational cabinets and one cooling cabinet.

Pawsey is part of the National Research Infrastructure (NCRIS) funded by the Government. Historically the scientific fields that primarily use the systems have been engineering, astronomy, physics, chemistry and health science.

Setonix is built on the same architecture used in exascale supercomputer projects including Frontier at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, El Capitan at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and LUMI at CSC’s data centre in Kajaani, Finland. By working with the same computing architecture, Pawsey ensures the researchers’ workflows are exascale-ready for future requirements.

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