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Tuesday, 28 April 2015 20:28

University of Qld. selects Xenon to build HPC computer Featured

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High performance computing specialist (HPC) vendor Xenon Systems, has won a competitive tender to build and deliver a bespoke HPC computer that it says can process and analyse larger datasets than ever before.

The HPC computer is scheduled to be up and running at the University of Queensland in July and Xenon says the system will put Australia at the forefront of big data research worldwide, including critical medical research.

Xenon will build the FlashLite computer and pre-configure the operating systems and cluster middleware at its headquarters in Melbourne, and has also committed to joint R&D activities with the University of Queensland team to co-fund a research project on big data technologies.

FlashLite was funded by the Australian Research Council in conjunction with CSIRO, Griffith University, Monash University, Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, Queensland University of Technology, The University of Queensland and The University of Technology, Sydney.

Xenon says that to maximise FlashLite’s availability to a wide cross-section of research, a portion of its capacity will be available to Australian researchers outside of the (above-named) stakeholder institutions, via the National Computational Infrastructure's (NCI) National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme (NCMAS).

Led by Professor David Abramson, designer of FlashLite and Director of the University of Queensland's Research Computing Centre, the computer includes three main innovations - high speed flash memory (instead of spinning disk), large amounts of high-speed main memory and software shared memory.

Inspired by the US National Science Foundation Machine, Gordon, it will help deliver breakthroughs in research such as cardiac disease, climate change and astrophysics.

Xenon will deliver a system that includes ScaleMP software to provide huge memory mainframe-style processing benefits in a modern cluster system using next generation technologies. Compute nodes in FlashLite can be flexibly aggregated together into larger ‘supernodes’ using ScaleMP’s vSMP (versatile symmetric multiprocessing) software – software that combines multiple physically separate servers into one single virtual high-end SMP machine.

“FlashLite will solve a problem that is everywhere these days: big data, and how to exploit it in critical research,” Professor Abramson said.

“The difference is how we approached the problem. We asked whether existing computing systems were fundamentally built the right way to leverage big data. Xenon proposed a suitably different solution that offered genuine innovation to help this.”

Xenon Systems CEO, Dragan Dimitrovici, said: “We're an agile company with close vendor partnerships and expertise in sourcing and evaluating next generation technologies. This combination, together with existing experience in working with research and academia, means we can recommend truly cutting-edge solutions to match funding timeframes. FlashLite is indicative of exactly the kind of project we like to work on.”

For the technically-minded, FlashLite has:

•    1632 CPU cores


•    34.8 TB of DDR4 RAM


•    326.4 TB of NVMe flash storage


•    65.28 Tflop/s (Rpeak)


•    68 compute nodes and two similarly configured login nodes


•    Dual rail Mellanox FDR (56 Gbps) Infiniband fabric

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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