While the history of capability computing in Australia dates back to the late 1980s, it was not until the establishment of the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC), the antecedent of NCI, that there was either national policy for the development of advanced computing or a national high-performance computing facility of an internationally significant scale.
The first (APAC) National Facility was established at ANU in April 2001 and comprised a Compaq/HP AlphaServer SC system, the performance of which was approximately one teraflop.
The second generation National Facility comprising a SGI Altix 3700 system of approximately 14 teraflop performance was installed in June 2005 during the second phase of APAC’s operations and decommissioned in September 2009.
The current peak system at the National Facility is a Sun Microsystems Constellation which was commissioned in April 2010. This system has been acquired via a joint procurement with the Bureau of Meteorology during 2008-09. A key objective of the tender was to provide interoperable facilities to underpin an integrated computational environment for the earth systems sciences—ranging from operational weather forecasting through to climate modelling and prediction. The selection criteria were structured to ensure that the NCI NF system would also deliver strong benefits to the broad span of research areas that have been and continue to be supported by NCI over a substantial period.
The next-generation facility, due for installation in 2011, is currently being planned. Funding of $50M for this was announced under the Super Science Initiative in the May 2009 Commonwealth Budget. The Budget Papers note that “Australia’s peak high-performance computing capacity will be upgraded. This new high-end computing infrastructure will be used by the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, ANU and others to address climate change, earth systems science and national water management issues. A next-generation building and machine room will be required to house the upgraded system.” In addition to the focus on earth systems science, the new facility will also support high-quality, high-impact research in a wide range of research fields. Planning for the construction of the data centre and the commissioning on the new facilities in late 2011/early 2012 is presently underway.
Visit the NCI National Facility website: http://nf.nci.org.au
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