The National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) based at The Australian National University will receive a $70 million funding boost to replace its ageing supercomputer, Raijin.
The funding, set out today in the government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, will be provided through existing resources from the Department of Education and Training.
Raijin is Australia’s highest performance research supercomputer and currently comes in at number 70 on the LINPACK Benchmark Top500 ranking, with a performance of 1.67 Petaflops – comparable to about 40,000 desktop computers working simultaneously.
When it debuted in 2012, Raijin was placed at 24. The current ranking is only thanks to an upgrade last year – paid for by an emergency government ‘Agility Fund’ – which helped Raijin rise from 121st place in 2016. However, the supercomputer is fast approaching the end of its service life
The NCI anticipates the replacement supercomputer will be ranked in the top 25 internationally when it is commissioned in 2019.
“This announcement is very welcome. NCI plays a pivotal role in the national research landscape, and the supercomputer is the centrepiece of NCI’s renowned and tightly integrated, high-performance computing and data environment,” said chair of the NCI board, Emeritus Professor Michael Barber.
“The Government’s announcement is incredibly important for the national research endeavour. It means NCI can continue to provide Australian researchers with a world-class advanced computing environment that is a fusion of powerful computing, high-performance ‘big data’, and world-leading expertise that enables cutting-edge Australian research and innovation,” he added.
The NCI supports the work of more than 5,000 researchers across more than 500 projects being undertaken in 35 universities, five national science agencies (including CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, and Geoscience Australia), three medical research institutes and industry.
It is also a national hub for national and international satellite earth observation collections (through the Australian Geoscience Data Cube) used in the earth, marine and environmental sciences, and agriculture.
“The NCI supercomputer is one of the most important pieces of research infrastructure in Australia. It is critical to the competitiveness of Australian research and development in every field of scientific and technological endeavour, spanning the national science and research priorities,” Barber added.
In May, Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel released the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap. In it, he noted the “critical importance” of supercomputing resources and said the government needed to “urgently address” the HPC situation.
“Throughout our consultations to develop the Roadmap the critical importance of Australia’s two high performance computers was manifestly clear,” Finkel said in a statement today.
“Our scientific community will be overwhelmingly delighted by the Australian Government’s decision today to support the modernisation of the NCI computer hosted at ANU,” he added.
In July, the NCI appointed world renowned computational chemist and nanomaterials scientist Professor Sean Smith as its next director. Smith takes up the role in January.