Supercomputer powers up

15/11/2013 - 12:33

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The new Pawsey Centre in Kensington

Researchers have begun making use of supercomputing power at the new Pawsey Centre, which is expected to cost stakeholders $140 million by 2017.

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Kensington was officially opened at a ceremony this morning.

But researchers are already using the computer to analyse data from the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope as well as research for urban planning.

CSIRO chief executive Megan Clark said researchers were pulling together images of Western Australia and correlating it with demographic data to help urban planners make more informed decisions in the future.

Planning for the centre began in 2009 when the federal government committed $80 million to establish the Interactive Virtual Environments Centre (iVEC) - a joint venture between CSIRO, UWA and Curtin, Edith Cowan and Murdoch Universities.

It was charged with constructing the purpose built building and procuring the supercomputer.

The state government has so far committed $19.5 million to supporting iVEC, including the employment of about 40 staff.

The chairman of iVEC Mal Bryce said the centre was expected to cost stakeholders $140 million by 2017 to support world class research.

He said the emergence of new technology such as cloud computing already held opportunities for research, which the supercomputer helped researchers take advantage of.

“By harnessing the potential of the new digital systems for research, the productivity of our researchers has had a shot in the arm,” he said.

“They’re now able to undertake routine tasks a whole leap faster and smarter and there are things they can now do which were previously impossible.”

Once fully commissioned next year the supercomputer will be of ‘petaflop’ scale which will enable it to do one million billion calculations per second.

To cool the supercomputer iVEC was able to integrate a system taking water from the Mullaloo aquifier below ground instead of Perth’s potential drinking water.

The system added an additional $6 million to the cost of the facility, but is expected to reduce its water requirements by about 40 million litres of water per year.

A key driver for the establishment of the supercomputer, which is the third in Perth but by far the largest, was its ability to crunch data coming from the Square Kilomtetre Array project which is expected to be in operation by 2020. 

The centre was named after Joe Pawsey who pioneered radio astronomy in Australia.

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