Earlier this year we announced that the Australian National University (ANU) has selected Fujitsu to supply and install a High Performance Computer (HPC) for the National Computing Infrastructure (NCI) project.
The Fujitsu Primergy cluster high-performance supercomputer was constructed at the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) in late 2012. This machine debuted at number 24 on the World Top 500 Supercomputer ranking. This means it is ranked as the 24th most powerful computer in the World, and also the fastest computer in Australia. The NCI computer uses technology developed for Japan’s ‘K’ Computer, which was until recently the world’s fastest computer.
If you are interested in seeing Australia’s fastest supercomputer being built, click here to see our time-lapse video of the computer coming together from an empty data centre through to a fully functioning supercomputer. The video compresses almost three months of installation activity into approximately one minute of video.
To express the power and scope of this machine in terms we all understand, here are a few key statistics:
- It has 57,000 cores, which is the equivalent of approximately 15,000 home PC’s
- 160 terabytes of RAM = approximately 40,000 home PC’s
- 10 petabytes of hard disc = 10,000 PC hard drives
- 1,200 teraflops of peak computational performance = 5 months worth of calculations by 1 billion people armed with calculators, in just 1 second.
- 9 terabyes of network = 9 million home internet bandwidth connections
At the NCI, we can be assured that this computer will be put to good use in support of a wide range of research initiatives across the region. NCI’s advanced computing infrastructure is funded through programs of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, while its operations are sustained through the substantial co-investment by a number of partner organisations including ANU, CSIRO, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, a number of Australia’s research-intensive universities, and the Australian Research Council.
For ICT companies such as Fujitsu, development of supercomputing technology can be likened to the development of Formula One cars by the large car companies. Concepts proven in this field can be adapted to more mainstream applications that benefit the general public. For Fujitsu the K-computer in Tokyo, which is a joint project between RIKEN and Fujitsu, has laid the foundations for much of Fujitsu’s future commercial endeavours.
Mr Yamada, Head of Fujitsu’s Supercomputing business describes the advancements well when he describes the processing power of the K-Computer in this video. Until recently the K Computer was the world’s fastest computer.
Imagine a football stadium filled with 50,000 people. They all have a calculator in their hand and start a calculation together doing one operation per second. What would take this group 6,340 years would take the K Computer only one second.
While it is easy to be consumed by discussions about processing power it is far more interesting to look at what this means in terms of its impact on the world. In medical science for example, it has for a long time been possible to create a simulation of the human heart for research purposes. Today’s supercomputing power enables us to take this one step further – rather than modelling a generic heart we can now quickly process a person’s vital signs and create a model of the individual heart. This means that we can now model the effects of an operation on the individual’s heart to simulate its reactions to an operation before we operate! Essentially the gain is in being able to process, model and simulate in a matter of days, not months or years – making the technology available on a wider scale. Similar examples can be found in a number of other fields including mineral exploration and predicting the effects of natual disasters such as tsunamis.