August 13, 2020

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Australia to boost Defence with high performance computing

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Game-changing is suitable description for the high performance computing (HPC) service that Australia’s Defence Science and Technology (DST) is building for Defence.

According to a recent press release, the HPC will contribute greatly to Defence as it will allow Defence scientists to run code thousands of times faster than on their high-end desktop computers.

Benefits of HPC

The Program Leader HPC and Computational Science at DST explained that having HPC will shorten the runtime for complex problems to realistic time frames.

Moreover, it will be able to tackle problems that they would not even attempt on a desktop.

Dr John Taylor shared that high-performance computing offers a whole range of advantages. This includes accelerating the innovation cycle, which is critical to maintaining competitiveness.

The super computers tend to be one-off, which have unique designs that are tailored for the specific needs and tuned for the best performance.

Everything that the HPC team does is designed to improve the performance of the researchers’ codes.

Strong support for the concept

There has been a massive uptake of HPC by universities and research organisations.

It has become a tool of the trade and a way to deal with huge amounts of data and most areas of defence research will benefit from the new capability.

Datasets are now being described in petabytes, whether it is modelling and simulation of a hypersonic object traveling through the atmosphere, or analysing the vast amounts of data from their modern weapon systems.

It will rapidly expand to collections and data sets measured in exabytes.

Globally, major investments in HPC are occurring for machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) that are used to support economies broadly, with strong interest from Defence organisations.

The HPC centre will play a key role in rapidly analysing huge volumes of data, being able to call on a significant number of the graphics processing units (GPUs) required by AI algorithms.

Many of the programming interfaces will automatically pick up and use the GPUs.

However, there will also be a suite of libraries so researchers will not have to completely rewrite existing code to access the benefits of the latest generation of high performance computing hardware that GPUs represent.

Aiming for a place in the Fastest 50

DST is aiming for a top 50 spot in the list of the world’s 500 fastest computers.

In November 2018, the supercomputer developed for the US Department of Energy was ranked no. 1, with a speed rating of 122.3 petaflops.

According to Dr Taylor, being in the top 50 is a suitable place for an organisation like DST to aim for. They are aiming for a speed rating of 20 petaflops.

The team has been operating a pilot high-performance computing capability at DST’s Melbourne site.

Beta users are helping to ramp up the Agency’s knowledge of how to operate a supercomputer in a secure environment, and just as importantly, how to support and manage users efficiently.

Before everyone knows it, high-performance computing power will be within the desktop reach of every Australian defence scientist.

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