Dell EMC wraps up $4M CSIRO supercomputer build

Dell EMC wraps up $4M CSIRO supercomputer build

New system tp help expand CSIRO’s capability in deep learning

Dell EMC has been revealed as the technology partner tasked with building the Australian national science agency’s new $4 million supercomputer system, which went live in early July.

The tech company announced on 18 July it had worked with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to build the agency’s new large-scale scientific computing system.

The project is aimed at expanding the CSIRO’s capability in deep learning, a key approach to furthering progress towards artificial intelligence (AI).

CSIRO put the call out for tenders in November 2016 to build the new system with a $4 million budget. At the time, the agency said it was searching for a technology partner to replace its existing BRAGG supercomputer with a petaflop-grade advanced accelerator compute cluster.

At the time, the new system was slated to be located in the same CSIRO data centre space where the BRAGG system resided at the Information Management and Technology (IMT) facility in Canberra.

The procurement had a fixed budget of $4 million, which included hardware, software licensing, maintenance, and support requirements, installation, and commissioning costs.

Following Dell EMC’s successful tender proposal, the new system was installed in just five days across May and June 2017. The system is now live and began production in early July 2017. It is expected to clock up speeds in excess of one petaflop.

The new system, named ‘Bracewell’ after Australian astronomer and engineer Ronald N. Bracewell, is built on Dell EMC’s PowerEdge platform.

The infrastructure includes other partner technology, such as GPUs for computation and InfiniBand networking, which pieces all the compute nodes together in a low latency and high bandwidth solution designed to be faster than traditional networking.

Dell EMC A/NZ high performance computing lead, Andrew Underwood, said that the installation process was streamlined and optimised for deep learning applications, with Bright Cluster Manager technology helping to put the frameworks in place.

“Our system removes the complexity from the installation, management and use of artificial intelligence frameworks, and has enabled CSIRO to speed up its time to results for scientific outcomes, which will in turn boost Australia’s competitiveness in the global economy.” Mr. Underwood said.

The new system includes 114 PowerEdge C4130 with NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs, NVLINK, dual Intel Xeon processors and 100Gbps Mellanox EDR InfiniBand, totaling 1,634,304 CUDA Compute Cores, 3,192 Xeon Compute Cores, 29TB RAM, plus Bright Cluster Manager Software 8.0.

In addition to artificial intelligence, the new system is aimed at providing capability for research in areas as diverse as virtual screening for therapeutic treatments, traffic and logistics optimisation, modelling of new material structures and compositions, machine learning for image recognition and pattern analysis.

CSIRO deputy CIO and head of scientific computing, Angus Macoustra, said the system is crucial to the organisation’s work in identifying and solving emerging science problems. 

“This is a critical enabler for CSIRO science, engineering and innovation,” Macoustra said. “As a leading global research organisation, it’s important to sustain our global competitiveness by maintaining the currency and performance of our computing and data infrastructures.

“The power of this new system is that it allows our researchers to tackle challenging workloads and ultimately enable CSIRO research to solve real-world issues. The system will nearly double the aggregate computational power available to CSIRO researchers, and will help transform the way we do scientific research and development,” he said.

The system builds on Dell EMC’s previous work in the high-performance computing space, including the CSIRO's Pearcey Cluster system, installed in early 2016. 

The Pearcey system was designed by CSIRO and Dell, and delivers 230 nodes supporting data- intensive research and computational modelling. 

The new system build also follows a number of other such systems Dell EMC has helped to build for Australian universities, such as the University of Melbourne's ‘Spartan’, Monash University’s ‘MASSIVE3’ and the University of Sydney’s ‘Artemis’ system.

“We’re proud to play a part in evolving the work happening at CSIRO and look forward to enabling scientific progress for years to come,” Dell EMC A/NZ commercial and public sector lead, Angela Fox, said.

The call for the project’s tender came just months after the CSIRO announced it was looking for a technology service provider to supply, install, and maintain a new Advanced Technology Cluster at its Pawsey Centre in Perth.

The proposed Pawsey Centre procurement was for a three-year contract with a fixed budget of $1.5 million, including hardware, software licensing, maintenance and support requirements, installation, and commissioning costs.

Dell EMC's latest work with the CSIRO comes as Dimension Data is awarded a $14 million, multi-year IT services contract by the agency.

Under the terms of the deal with Dimension Data deal, the technology supplier will provide commercial off-the-shelf software, hardware, support and maintenance across networking, unified communications, IT security, and datacentre equipment via the IT provider’s eProcurement portal system.

According to the CSIRO chief information officer, Brendan Dalton, the contract supports the agency’s day-to-day information management and technology operations.

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