Highlights of 1995

Role of the ANU Supercomputer Facility

The role of the ANU Supercomputer Facility (ANUSF) is to support computational science and engineering through the provision of both high performance computing (HPC) infrastructure and expertise. The infrastructure is composed of four basic elements - computational systems, visualization or interpretative systems, networks and systems for handling massive amounts of data. All elements bar networking are the direct responsibility of the Supercomputer Facility.

Expertise is provided at all levels, from basic operational support to algorithm development and implementation and collaboration in research projects. The Facility is also heavily involved in industrial R&D projects. Further details of the objectives and management of the facility are given in the next section.

Computational Science and Engineering Centre

In 1995, the Supercomputer Facility was actively involved in formulating a proposal from SMS/RSISE to the Strategic Development Fund for a centre to promote academic initiatives involving the applications of high performance computing across a wide variety of disciplines. The University has made a large investment in HPC infrastructure, and with growing industrial links and experienced research and support staff, it has an excellent opportunity to consolidate its international position at the leading edge in computationally based research. The proposed Centre would help ensure maximum advantage was taken of the investment and opportunity presented. It would also provide a means of integrating a number of the activities mentioned below with other high performance computing activities on campus and provide a much-needed external interface in HPC.

Computational Science and Engineering Education Program

With a supplement from the Quality Fund scheme, the ANUSF and the Department of Computer Science, FEIT (with the active involvement of the Department of Engineering) appointed a lecturer (Level C) in December to develop and coordinate courses in computational science and engineering. A laboratory of workstations with considerable visualization capability was established in the CSIT building. Courses are expected to commence in 1996 and will be initially at postgraduate and senior undergraduate level, but other undergraduate and industrial courses are also envisioned.

Fujitsu International Supercomputer Users Meeting

In September the ANU was host to the annual Fujitsu International Supercomputer Users Meeting, FISUM4. This meeting was held at the Academy of Sciences and was attended by a number of international visitors from Korea, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, Japan and the USA as well as by delegates and speakers from ANSTO. The keynote speakers were Dr I Toda, Managing Director of Fujitsu Limited and Dr Martin Guest from the Daresbury Laboratory, UK. We were also fortunate to have in attendance a large number of key staff from the High Performance Computing group of Fujitsu Ltd led by the Group General Manager Dr Y Kosaka. The proceedings were opened by Professor Sue Serjeantson, Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies and Deputy VC. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Deane Terell spoke at the conference dinner at Parliament House.

Major National Research Facilities Proposal and HPC Industrial Diffusion

Early in the year a joint proposal with consortiums in Victoria and Queensland for a National Centre for the Applications of High Performance Computing was submitted to the MNRF program. While the proposal was not ultimately successful, it provided some of the momentum leading to the Government's Innovation Statement later in the year which announced around $24M for a High Performance Computing and Communications program.

In December, the Supercomputer Facility and the Department of Engineering formulated a joint proposal with Curtin University to the Department of Industry Science and Technology in response to the first program initiated under the Innovations Statement. The HPCC Industrial Diffusion program aims to accelerate the uptake of the use of HPC technology by Australian industry.

Computer in front-rank world-wide to be installed at ANU in 1996

During 1995, the Supercomputer Facility and ITS with the support of the HPCAC completed negotiations with Fujitsu for the replacement of the ageing VP2200 with a parallel vector system. The new VPP300, with a peak speed of 28 Gflops and 13 processors, is expected to begin installation in April 1995.

On current figures, the University's VPP300 will be the fastest university-based computer in the world bar similar machines at some Japanese universities. It will be the fifth fastest computer outside of Japan and the USA, leapfrogging Australia from its current ranking near 300.

The VPP300 will enable a new generation of the most computationally demanding problems to be tackled using a relatively mature computer architecture.

The External Use scheme on the VP2200, under which access to ten per cent of the system is made available to other universities, will be continued on the VPP300, thereby offering a substantial resource to the Australian university research community.

The Australian Cooperative Supercomputer Facility

The Australian Cooperative Supercomputer Facility which was initiated by the ANU in conjunction with regional computational consortia representing all the New South Wales and Adelaide universities, made its first acquisition late in 1995. This followed a third grant from the ARC in 1994. The ACSF originally aimed to establish a shared internationally competitive supercomputer facility with balanced regional facilities, though over the course of time the objectives were somewhat modified in the light of technological and other developments. In late December three powerful interim Silicon Graphics PowerChallenge systems were installed (at ANU, UNSW and University of Adelaide), each to be upgraded in 1996 to 16 R10000 processors. This will provide a substantial resource for general purpose computationally demanding applications. The ACSF partners plan to cooperate in education, research and software.

Visualization Laboratory

The Visualization Laboratory continued its program of support for users wishing to interpret their data and make videotapes. There is substantial demand for additional staff to augment the single visualization programmer currently employed, particularly so that projects requiring a substantial amount of development work for users can be progressed.

Massive Data Storage System

The massive data storage system installed in 1994 is the first such system acquired by an Australian university. While primarily acquired to manage and store the output of the supercomputer systems, it is also be used for a range of data intensive projects involving experimental data.

Usage in 1995 grew rapidly with the system accommodating 1.5 million files and almost 600 Gbytes of data (close to the planned capacity for the first stage). In addition to users of the supercomputer systems (and some specific projects from other ITS machines), there were 82 users supported in special projects on the mass storage system.

Unfortunately delays in the supply of upgraded file migration software prevented the delivery of the new tape system which would have increased the capacity of the system by two orders of magnitude and alleviated the load problems created by the heavy demand. These delays regrettably required the Facility to dampen demand for further growth of usage of the system. The software issue will be addressed in 1996 and it is expected that once these problems are resolved, usage and capability of the system will expand dramatically.

Supercomputer Time Allocation Committee

In view of the maturity of the system and the user base, the Supercomputer Time Allocation, chaired by Professor W Levick focussed its scrutiny largely on new projects on the VP2200 (both internal and external) and CM5 (internal) during the year. Full details of projects and allocations are given elsewhere in this Report. Demand for the VP2200, entering its fifth year of use, continued to be strong. For a variety of reasons, demand for the CM5 (which was approaching its fourth year of operation) lessened during the year, though at year's end, there were still several major projects dependent on it.

Fujitsu Research Relationship

The research relationship between the University and Fujitsu Limited entered its seventh year. Under this agreement, the Supercomputer Facility is involved in a number of software development projects in conjunction with other sections of the University (in particular the School of Mathematical Sciences, Computer Sciences Laboratory, RSISE, the Department of Computer Science and the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies). The software development projects now include computational chemistry, environmental science and the development of mathematical libraries for a new generation of supercomputers. As well as participating in these projects, the Supercomputer Facility takes overall responsibility for the management of two of the three major areas of the research relationship with Fujitsu - Area 3 (Chemistry and Environment) and Area 4 (Mathematical Subroutine Library).

High Performance Computing Advisory Committee - HPCAC

The High Performance Computing Advisory Committee was formed as part of the reorganization of Information Technology Services at the end of 1994. The HPCAC provides advice to the IT Strategy Committee on relevant issues and monitors the performance of the Supercomputer Facility.

The Committee met five times in 1995. Activities included advising ANUSF on development of a strategic plan, advising on the acquisition of equipment to replace the VP2200 and University policy with respect to the Australian Cooperative Supercomputer Facility and its acquisition process in 1995. It also considered the progress of the mass data storage system and provided advice on a proposal to the Major National Research Facility program. The HPCAC also supported a proposal to create a Computational Science and Engineering Centre. These activities are outlined in more detail elsewhere in this Report.

Other Activities

Through an agreement with Sun Microsystems, the ANU continued to supply substantial supercomputer support to Fluid Thinking, an engineering company using advanced computational techniques to do fluid dynamics design for the yacht for the One Australia and Australian Challenge syndicates for the Americas Cup in 1995. A dedicated network link from ANU to San Diego was installed so that design work could continue right up to the races.

The Supercomputer Facility also assisted RSPhysSE in planning the 1996 Summer School in Computational Physics and was involved in a number of educational initiatives and workshops in conjunction with CMA/SMS and CSL/RSISE.

With the support of Quality Funds to ANUSF and CRES, a programmer was employed in CRES to enhance the ease of use of the climate modelling tools which are available on the Fujitsu VP2200. Work was also done to assist in the use of these models in undergraduate teaching.

The Facility also funded a post in RSPhysSE for six months to assist with the computational plasma research program.

Support was also given for the attendance of several international attendees to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute conferences on Physical Chemistry and the Sixth Australian Conference on Chemical Reaction Dynamics held at ANU in February.