See Australia’s fastest supercomputer being built

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.

Australia's fastest computer being builtIf 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.

 

Navigating your way through a smorgasbord of Cloud Choices

Over the last couple of years we have seen the Cloud market maturing with a range of new providers offering a variety of new services. It can be very complex for a customer wading through the various offers available.

Given that we have just released our yearly Australian Open Golf Video, which focusses on the theme of Cloud Choice, I have put together some scenarios of varying business requirements and made some suggestions as to the priorities for Cloud that would be important in each case:

If data sovereignty is important to you… Organisations such as Financial Institutions and Government Departments not only value data security and privacy, it is often a requirement for the operational aspects of their business. In this case the only Cloud that suits their requirements is one in which the provider can guarantee that their data is safe and secure and most importantly stays on-shore.  With many providers offering cloud services it is important to speak to your provider to understand exactly where your data will be located and whether they can guarantee that it will not be stored offshore. Specifying storage locations is in some ways contradictory to the very nature of cloud computing so it may be a challenge for providers who either don’t have or have a limited number of data centres in Australia.

If flexibility of capacity is important. Sometimes the biggest driver for a move to the cloud is the need for capacity planning. If you are about to experience a major fluctuation in your business – perhaps caused by seasonal factors or an increase in marketing activity, it is much easier to provision an extra server from your service provider than to procure and provision the capacity. Cloud models allow additional servers to be provisioned and de-provisioned in minutes as opposed to possibly months of planning, ordering, provisioning and testing required to provision the capacity in the conventional way. The ability to self-provision is also an important factor for some organisations and should be factored into your thinking when it comes to your choice of Cloud provider. In this scenario you need to be able to ensure that your provider has the ability to leverage its resources to offer you ‘capacity on tap’.

If you need optimum security and service level requirements for many key applications you may consider adopting a private cloud model. Private cloud allows IT infrastructure to be provisioned under an organization’s control, either on-premise or at a service provider’s facilities.

If you need flexibility in your cloud environment you may consider a hybrid cloud platform that gives you the best of local, global and private cloud platforms. For example, organisations using largely private cloud services can “burst” non-sensitive processing workloads to a public cloud to meet peak or highly elastic workloads. Or, they can split a workload across a global public cloud and a country-specific public cloud — depending on which elements of an application are publicly facing or involve the processing of customer data. Such a sophisticated orchestration means control over data location can be maintained, and governance can be shared across all different cloud types.

Whatever approach you take, you don’t want to go it alone. Cloud computing is not just about technology. Cloud offerings should start with a set of Enablement Services to guide customers through the complex task of responding to individual business needs. Enablement services help to consolidate customers’ on-site demands and other cloud activities with our end-to-end offering . You should also be able to pick up the phone and speak to your Cloud provider at a technical level as well as an account management level, to work with you to define your requirements and enable your transition to the cloud.

When choosing a cloud provider, you need utmost confidence in their ability to deliver. Your provider should also be mature in the marketplace. By this I mean that they should know how to support their customers across their whole business and not just their sales teams. It is the post-sales support and guidance from your provider that can make the journey to the cloud all the more seamless.

If you are already on the cloud journey and want to expand your organisation’s cloud footprint. You should not just consider your provider’s current cloud offerings but should consider their capability development roadmap and their cloud solution development activities. These activities should be across the range of IaaS; SaaS & PaaS offerings. No one can guarantee where Cloud computing technologies will be in 5 – 10 years time, so you need to partner with a provider that has a strong solution development capability. This is so you can be sure that your provider will be able to offer services in-line with where the demand for cloud is heading.

Needless to say, at Fujitsu we can offer our customers a complete range of choices of platform to suit every business need. We invested in a range of cloud platforms a number of years ago and continue to invest and innovate on these platforms. While some of our competitors are still establishing themselves locally we have been providing industrial strength Cloud solutions in Australia for over two years. If you are interested in reading further about the choices you have in Cloud I recommend that you download and read Fujitsu’s White Book of Cloud Adoption. This is an excellent impartial reference to help you to navigate your way through the smorgasbord of choices you have in today’s market.