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EXCLUSIVE – Smart Nation Innovations at A*STAR (Part 2) – Supercomputing and Next-generation Networks

EXCLUSIVE - Smart Nation Innovations at A*STAR (Part 2) – Supercomputing and Next-generation Networks

Furthering its work in supporting the Smart Nation Initiative (Read the first part of the OpenGov report on Smart Nation Innovations at A*STAR here), A*STAR is driving innovations in order to facilitate greater scientific outcomes.

The agency is working on several projects which empower researchers, position A*STAR as a world-class research agency and help Singapore attract the best research talent from around the world.

OpenGov spoke to Dr. John Kan, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Information Technology Shared Services at A*STAR to learn about the agency’s key role in Singapore’s Smart Nation Program. Mr Max Tsang, Deputy Director, Information Technology and Services and Dr. Govindasamy Rajasekaran, Head, IT Planning & Communications also provided inputs.

ExaNet

A*STAR commissioned ExaNet in January 2015 as a high-performance 100 Gigabit campus-wide network. The high speed network enabled researchers to share large scientific datasets such as high resolution imaging, molecular models, 3D models and genome sequencing data.

ExaNet is deployed via the SingAREN Lightwave Internet Exchange (SLIX). SingAREN stands for Singapore Advanced Research and Education Network. It facilitates efficient exchanges of local traffic from Singapore's Research and Education community and provides international connectivity with overseasResearch and Education Networks (RENs).

 ExaNet segregates research traffic (open network) from corporate traffic (research network) to provide a dedicated super-highway for researchers to collaborate within A*STAR and with external partners, such as NTU (Nanyang Technological University) and NUS (National University of Singapore) and overseas research institutions. ExaNet has been already deployed for A*STAR’s research institutes.
         
         
         

High performance computing (HPC)

A*STAR Computational Resource Centre (A*CRC) provides HPC resources to the A*STAR research community. Currently, A*CRC supports HPC needs of over seven hundred strong user community.

A*STAR also has an Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC). The institute provides leadership in high performance computing as a strategic resource for creating scientific breakthroughs and industry development. IHPC’s R&D projects in sectors such as aerospace, infocomm, marine, maritime and offshore, urban planning, personal care, and medical technology have benefited industry partners.
         
         
         

Earlier this year, OpenGov interviewed Dr. Kan about plans for the National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) and reported on A*STAR working towards the launch. Its 1 Petaflop (PF) system comprises approximately 1,288 nodes with 128 Gigabyte memory per node connected by high-speed interconnects. The nodes are connected to a 13 Petabytes high performance storage with very high input-output burst rate of up to 500 Gigabytes/s.

NSCC is operational now and it provides HPC resources, multi-petabyte data storage and multi-Gigabit high-speed global connectivity. It is a shared facility for supporting scientific and industrial research in the public sector, educational and research institutes, as well as the private sector. Using InfiniCortex, NSCC can collaborate with supercomputing facilities around the world to create a Galaxy of Supercomputers. 

InfiniCortex – A galaxy of Supercomputers 

InfiniCortex network map (Image courtsey of A*STAR)

InfiniCortex is the concurrent supercomputing across the globe, utilising trans-continental InfiniBand (a computer-networking communications standard, with very high throughput and very low latency used in HPC) and a Galaxy of Supercomputers. 

Effectively, it creates a Galaxy of Supercomputers, with the supercomputers at the 7 nodes leveraging the InfiniBand network to act as one and tackle the biggest computational challenges. It was the first project in the world, where a 100 Gbps connection was established between supercomputers separated by a geographical distance of greater than 26,000 km. 

 This distributed and collaborative approach has the added benefits of solving the problem of huge power requirements, data replication and disaster recovery. This opens up a possible avenue towards Exascale computing, which are computing systems capable of at least one exaFLOPS, or a billion calculations per second. 
         
         
         

Traditionally, InfiniBand was meant for use over short distances, say 50 metres within a data centre. Then A*STAR started work on extending the range, creating a global high speed network (100 Gbps per second). 

Initial trials were conducted across institutes of higher learning which were 20-30 kilometres apart. Subsequently, InfiniCortex was demonstrated in November 2014 on a show floor in New Orleans, United States, running a connection from Singapore. 

Now, large data sets are shared with the US, Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada. 

Explaining the change wrought by InfiniCortex in data transfer, Dr. Kan said, “Transferring a 1 terabyte file over an Ethernet network using TCP/IP might take 2-3 days. Using InfiniBand trial networks, the transfer is completed in 20-25 minutes. In addition, the error rate in the old networks is as high as 60-80%. With InfiniBand, the error rate drops to a range between 10 and 20%. So, we can transfer faster and more accurately. We will keep on working to make data faster and cheaper.” 

This is critical for data-driven research areas such as genomics. Large data sets can be transferred and accessed significantly faster, enabling improved collaboration between universities in Singapore and the rest of the world. 

Making Singapore a regional and global research hub, is an integral part of A*STAR’s strategy to improve the quality of life of Singapore’s citizens. 

Read the first part of the report here

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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As a Titanium Black Partner of Dell Technologies, CTC Global Singapore boasts unparalleled access to resources.

Established in 1972, we bring 52 years of experience to the table, solidifying our position as a leading IT solutions provider in Singapore. With over 300 qualified IT professionals, we are dedicated to delivering integrated solutions that empower your organization in key areas such as Automation & AI, Cyber Security, App Modernization & Data Analytics, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and consulting services provider, helping clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,800 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently, and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity, and service. For more information, visit www.ibm.com