CSIRO wants to replace its existing Bragg supercomputer with something more powerful ©CSIRO
CSIRO wants to replace its existing Bragg supercomputer with something more powerful ©CSIRO

Scientists searching for new $4m supercomputer

Australia’s national science organisation is looking to spend AUS$4m on a new supercomputer.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) wants to replace its existing system with a computer it said would provide “petaFLOPs of processing power”.

A FLOP is a measure of computer performance, and a petaFLOP is equivalent to a quadrillion, a thousand billion, calculations a second.

The winning bidder will be expected to deliver and support the system for three years, and the system is expected to be operational by the first half of 2017.

Supercomputers are needed in modern science to process and analyse the vast quantities of complicated data researchers are producing.

“The cluster will power a new generation of ground-breaking scientific research, including data analysis, modelling, and simulation in a variety of science domains,” said CSIRO.

It said the computer would work in areas includng “biophysics, material science, molecular modelling, marine science, geochemical modelling, computational fluid dynamics, and more recently, artificial intelligence and data analytics using deep learning”.

The tender process will be conducted through Australia’s online platform AusTender, and it is for a “heterogeneous” computer system that combines traditional processors with secondary coprocessors improve the machine’s power and energy efficiency. 

CSIRO is the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia, and is already home to one of the world’s TOP500 most powerful supercomputers, named Bragg after the country’s first Nobel Prize winner. 

When Bragg was first introduced 2010 it was ranked 146 on the TOP500 list, and now sits at number 410. When built it was novel because it used graphics processors to increase its ability to multi-task.

It has recorded a maximum performance of more than 335 teraFLOPs, around a third of a petaFLOP.

CSIRO said its new computer would be significantly faster.

TOP500 lists China’s Sunway TaihuLight computer, at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, as being the world’s most powerful computer, with a maximum-recorded performance of 93 petaFLOPs.

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