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Monday, 16 November 2009 13:50

Supercomputer drives Aussie research priorities: Carr

The Commonwealth has tipped $26 million into a new supercomputer project at the Australian National University that could ultimately be used to crank through the massive volumes of data generated by the Square Kilometre Array project.

Science Minister Kim Carr said the funding was a part $130 million allocated this financial year to the National Computational Infrastructure initiative. In addition to the NCI national facility at the ANU, $80 million has already been ear-marked for the Pawsey High Performance Computing Centre for Square Kilometre Array Science to be built in Perth.

Senator Carr said in conjunction with other high-end computational resources the new ANU facility would be used in research projects looking at change modeling, earth systems science, water research, and other data-intensive studies.

It would also support high-end research in disciplines including nanotechnology, biotechnology, geo informatics, engineering, atomic physics, chemistry, and mineralogy, he said.

"Capturing, managing, analysing and visualising data is now core business for all scientists – including social scientists – whether their field is human health or astronomy, nanotechnology or climate change, linguistics or economics," Senator Carr told ANU scientists at a function in Canberra today.

When the new system is up and running in January next year, it would provide a ten-fold increase in performance over the machine it replaces.

"Australia's best researchers – in disciplines ranging from astronomy and physics, to climate research, social science and engineering – will benefit from access to a truly world-class supercomputer," Senator Carr said.

"The new supercomputer will allow researchers to test ideas using computer simulations that would not be possible to test in the lab, and enable the construction of complex models that just cannot be developed without these facilities."

The NCI national facility would be available to the broadest range of NCI collaborators, including the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, and the ANU.

Senator Carr said the Commonwealth was establishing a national supercomputing and data storage backbone for researchers.

By the time it is operational, the new ANU supercomputer will be the fourth generation of equipment deployed at the facility in the past decade.

"This is a measure of just how rapidly information and communication technology is advancing – Moore’s law suggests that capacity doubles every two years." Senator Carr said.

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