Research Story, Media Release


New supercomputer is something to crow about

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Monday, 8 January 2007

A new, hi-tech "crow" - a supercomputer capable of six trillion calculations per second - will help South Australia to tackle some of the big issues in scientific and applied research, such as water resources and environmental management.

The new high-performance supercomputer will be used by the South Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (SAPAC) [1] to support research and development by governments, industry and universities in key areas of need.

SAPAC is a partnership of the three South Australian universities - Adelaide, Flinders and UniSA. The new supercomputer, to be installed at the University of Adelaide in March, has been purchased from SGI [2], one of the world's leading high-performance computer companies.

In the tradition of naming cluster-based supercomputers after stellar constellations, the new supercomputer will be called "Corvus" [3], the constellation of the crow.

It will effectively replace the retiring "Perseus" [4], the oldest of SAPAC's four existing supercomputers, which was built in the late 1990s.

"This new supercomputer is a major leap forward for the South Australian research and development community," says Professor Tony Williams [5], Director of SAPAC.

"The power that this computer offers is desperately needed by South Australia's research community to make a real impact in areas of strategic need.

"It will be used to tackle some of the most demanding scientific and technical problems, ranging from bioinformatics, fluid dynamics, water resource and environmental management, physical oceanography, computational chemistry, and physics.

"We believe that Corvus will be the fourth fastest computer in Australia and, for dedicated R&D, second only to the Australian National Facility in Canberra," he says.

Professor Williams says Corvus will become an integral part of the evolving national Grid, a network of high-performance computers, data repositories, scientific instruments and related software and services.

In addition to the supercomputer itself, SAPAC has also purchased "massive and expandable data storage infrastructure and technologies", Professor Williams says.

"South Australia's research data collections are growing rapidly, and this new infrastructure will help us to create a sustainable repository for data in this State."

Corvus has been funded in part by an Australian Research Council [6] LIEF grant with contributions from the three South Australian universities and SAPAC itself.

It complements SAPAC's existing supercomputers, which include "Aquila" [7], purchased in 2004 [8] from SGI through a grant from the South Australian Government.

"We chose SGI again as the supplier since they offered us the best overall package and a total technological solution to create an integrated, high-performance computing and data management system," Professor Williams says.

Corvus - technical detail

Corvus is an SGI Altix XE1300 supercomputer.

It is a general-purpose, very high-performance computing platform, and possibly the first "quad-core" cluster in the world.

It is capable of delivering 6 TeraFlops, or 6 trillion (1012) calculations per second of performance.

The new supercomputer includes:

  • 68 SGI Altix XE310 compute nodes, with dual Intel "Clovertown" quad-core 2.66GHz processors and 16GB memory per node (this represents more than 544 computational "cores");
  • 1 SGI Altix XE240 head node, similarly configured;
  • 1 SGI Altix XE240 storage node, similarly configured.

The associated data storage and management infrastructure includes:

  • 1 SGI TP9300 RAID Storage Array, with 28 300GB high-speed disks (8.4 TeraBytes in total);
  • 1 StorageTek Tape Library with 2 LTO-3 drives and 150 slots (for back-up/archiving approx 60TB data) - expandable by adding further modules. [9]

Professor Tony Williams
Email: [10]
Director, SA Partnership for Advanced Computing (SAPAC)
Director, Special Research Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter (CSSM)
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3546
Mobile: 0414 687 264

Mr David Ellis
Email: [11]
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762
Johannes Hevelius's <i>Corvus</i> from <i>Uranographia</i> (1690), as used on the <a href=''>Chandra X-Ray Observatory [12]</a> website
<b>Courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO</b>

Johannes Hevelius's Corvus from Uranographia (1690), as used on the Chandra X-Ray Observatory [13] website
Courtesy of NASA/CXC/SAO

Full Image (82.03K) [14]