New National Facility peak system to be installed at the ANU

Dear Research Users of the NCI National Facility Systems,

We are pleased to announce the new National Facility peak system that will be installed at the ANU later this year.

As you may be aware, there has been a joint acquisition process, seeking to buy coextensive supercomputers for the National Facility at the ANU and the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne for both high-end research and operations weather forecasting respectively. This collaboration led to a joint tender

  • to establish a high-end platform for climate research across CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University sector,
  • to provide the peak facility to support the broad span of high performance computational research in Australia.

The new facility is a Sun Constellation system which is a high performance distributed memory cluster based on Intel Xeon EMT 64 (Nehalem series) quad core processors (2.93 GHz). The following provides a brief summary of the specifications and performance of the new system.

  • 11,936 cores and over 36 TBytes of memory.
  • Infiniband interconnect.
  • Approx. 500 TByte global filesystem (Lustre based filesystem).
  • Peak performance: approx 140 TFlops (10 x current peak system).
  • Sustained performance: approx 240,000 SPEC units (12 x current SGI Altix AC peak system).

The unit of shared memory parallelism is the node that comprises dual quad-core processors (i.e. 8 cores). Most nodes are configured with 3 GBytes/core while a small fraction (about 3%) of the nodes are configured with twice the memory.

As a comparison, the new NCI system is a smaller version of the first of the four US Track 2 facilities - Ranger at the Texas Advanced Computing Centre ( Ranger, with a peak performance of about 580 TFlops, listed in position 6 on the Top500 ( list of November 2008.

The first phase of the new facility will be installed in the third quarter of 2009 and constitutes about one-eight of the final system - the capability of which will exceed the present SGI Altix AC system by approximately 50%. This will enable the migration of all work onto the new facility, after which the old system can be decommissioned and removed from the data centre. Following this, the second phase will see the installation of the bulk of the new system which will be made available to the research community in December 2009. The final minor phase is the merger of the first and second phases and will take place in December/January. Although there will be a major upgrade to the power and cooling infrastructure at the ANU to cater for this system, we anticipate only minimal downtime. Further details of the transition will be made at a time closer to the system upgrade.

This new system, being acquired with funding from NCRIS, ANU and CSIRO, provides a very substantial boost in the computational capabilities for Australian researchers and we look forward to this unlocking research of even greater impact and significance.

We will keep you informed of developments as the installation proceeds.

In closing, we note that there are various media announcements appearing today. While the current releases have an earth systems science flavour, further announcements will be made closer to the commissioning of the NCI system, promoting the span of research supported on the NCI systems and drawing attention to the important role of the Commonwealth and other major partners in funding and developing this facility.

With best wishes

Lindsay Botten
Director, NCI

Ben Evans
Manager, NCI National Facility