High-performance computing transforms research

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

New super-fast, high-performance computing (HPC) being installed by La Trobe University, RMIT University and the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing (VPAC) will revolutionise the computational modelling and simulation technologies available to researchers and their understanding of a number of social and medical complexities.

The new system, named ‘Trifid’, compresses the calculations a human would need over one million years to complete into a single second, enabling researchers to attack larger and more complex computational models and simulations.

At La Trobe University a growing number of leading researchers increasingly depend on high-performance computing, especially in the life sciences, engineering and computing. 

“Research at La Trobe is aimed at making a difference in pressing global problems. Linking disciplines and strong researchers will be a key, but these cross-disciplinary approaches often require the latest in computational power to explore the solutions and find the best. So infrastructure like this is a vital component in the La Trobe strategy,” said La Trobe’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Tim Brown.

“La Trobe is delighted with this upgrade as it takes our researchers to a new level in their ability to address complex problems through sophisticated computational methods that hitherto would be impractical or impossible,” said Ged Doyle, CIO at La Trobe.

RMIT’s Executive Director of IT Services, Brian Clark, said, “A key goal of the RMIT ICT plan is to support research by providing researchers with the tools that build productivity, and access to more and faster compute resources reduces time to their research results.”

According to RMIT’s eResearch Director, Professor Heinz Schmidt, “Our significant investment in this joint HPC facility will provide our researchers with a ten-fold capability increase that enables them to better understand the nature of proteins and complex materials for next-generation solar cells, more effectively model medical radiation used in cancer treatments and support the breadth of engineering applications.”

The competitive world of research demands access to world-class resources such as high-performance computers, and the difference in delivering results in days rather than weeks can mean the difference between making a globally significant discovery or just verifying others’ outcomes.

Trifid is housed and operated by VPAC, delivering 45.9 TFLOPS (trillions of calculations per second) of performance through 180 nodes of the latest Intel Sandy Bridge Enterprise processors, FDR Infiniband and featuring a 165 TB DDN high-performance storage array.

Dr Ann Borda, CEO at VPAC, stated, “VPAC was established to provide advanced computing services to Victoria’s universities and research institutions ... Trifid is one of the most capable, high-performance systems available in Australia and it will be available to researchers from all of our member institutions.”

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