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New Zealand unveils world’s most advanced AI supercomputer

New Zealand has installed its most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence (AI) applications at the University of Waikato. The move aims to put New Zealand among the leading countries in AI research and development.

According to a news report, the NVIDIA DGX A10, nicknamed the Ferrari of computing, is the first computer of its kind in New Zealand and the world’s most advanced system for powering universal AI workloads. The machine can rapidly and efficiently process massive amounts of data, allowing students and researchers at the University to process at lightning-fast speeds. It enables machine learning and AI that can solve problems from addressing climate change to managing the country’s biodiversity.

Machine learning uses algorithms to explore huge data sets and create models that provide answers or outcomes mirroring human decision-making. Models can be trained to recognise patterns, facial expressions, and spoken words. They can also detect anomalies like credit card fraud. It uses artificial neural networks – computer software styled on the human brain – to learn how to make predictions in particular areas through deep learning. The model makes its own predictions then tests these against real-world results and is trained by humans to recognise what went wrong in a quest to create a more accurate model.

One of the first projects the computer is being used for is to train models that can learn and classify New Zealand’s plants and animals, based on a publicly available database of more than one million photos. Albert Bifet, a Professor at the university, said that students and researchers could take months, or even years, to process the data needed to create models like the one they are working on if they had to use more traditional computing. The computer will allow the researchers to process the data in a matter of days. It will enable them to gain insights and progress their research at an unprecedented scale, he noted.

The purchase was made possible through income from the sale of commercial licenses to the Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis (WEKA) software. It is a suite of Java-based software tools for machine learning and data mining that the machine learning group at the university has been developing for more than 20 years, the report explained.

“Being able to use the funds from WEKA, which has proved so successful, is a real win for us. WEKA software has been bought by several large international IT companies. It shows the success and depth of expertise we have here and has enabled us to reinvest back into our group,” Professor Bifet said.

The system was supplied by Fujitsu and fits into one-quarter of a computing rack in the University’s main server room. The NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs featured in the DGX A100 system enables enterprises to consolidate training, inference, and analytics into a unified, easy-to-deploy AI infrastructure. NVIDIA Mellanox InfiniBand networking ensures that the data is rapidly supplied to the system.

The report said that the A100 GPUs enable data scientists and developers to perform a massive number of calculations all at once, a key feature of the algorithms behind machine learning and AI. The DGX A100 has eight A100 GPUs containing 40 GB (gigabytes) of memory each for a total of 320 GB of GPU memory. When they all work together, they can process five quadrillion basic arithmetic operations per second.

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