By Flo Conway-Derley
Today marks the official operational launch of the iVEC Pawsey Centre — Australia’s newest supercomputer facility in Perth, Western Australia.
Supercomputing resources at iVEC’s Pawsey Centre will be available for data-intensive projects across the scientific spectrum, including radio astronomy, geosciences, biotechnology and nanotechnology.
In particular, a significant portion of the supercomputing power will be dedicated to processing radio-astronomy data from major facilities, such as our Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope.
ASKAP will need the processing power of the Pawsey Centre to crunch some serious data. When fully operational, about 250 terabytes per day will stream from the telescope, data which the supercomputer will need to process in more-or-less real time.
In 2009, our astronomers used the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) in Narrabri to create a picture of the galaxy Centaurus A. This galaxy is large — around 200 times the size of the full moon — and it took more than 1200 hours of data collection and 10,000 hours of computing to make the image.
With ASKAP and the Pawsey Centre, the image would take around ten minutes.
Some other interesting facts about the Pawsey Centre:
- It was named after Dr Joseph Pawsey, who is widely acknowledged as the father of Australian radio astronomy.
- It houses a supercomputer able to exceed one quadrillion operations every second, or one “petaflop”.
- It has 40 petabytes of storage capacity — that’s 40,000,000,000,000,000 bytes, or 223,000 DVDs.
- Once finished, the Centre will house 20 tonnes of computer equipment and 400 km of fibre optic cable within the 1000 sqm building.
- Half of the Pawsey Centre’s floorspace has been earmarked for the computing needs of the future international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project.
- A groundwater cooling system, developed by our CSIRO Geothermal Project, is used to cool the supercomputer, rather than water towers. This system brings water up from groundwater bores 140m deep and cycles 90 litres a second to cool the machine.
- The amount of water saved by using a groundwater cooling system to cool the Pawsey Centre supercomputer is equivalent to the amount of drinking water consumed in South Perth.
Note: CSIRO, as centre agent for iVEC, has led the development of the Pawsey Centre. It owns and maintains the building, which is constructed on CSIRO-owned land adjacent to the Australian Resources Research Centre facility. For more information about iVEC, visit http://www.ivec.org