Swinburne supercomputer to be one of the most powerful in Australia

Wednesday 7 March 2018

OzSTAR features a custom fit-out with artwork designed by Swinburne graduate Justin Pedler and completed by visual arts agency Apparition Media.

The supercomputer features custom artwork designed by Swinburne graduate Justin Pedler (right) and visual arts agency Apparition Media.

In summary

  • OzSTAR to be one of the most powerful computers in Australia
  • Launches Swinburne into the petascale era of supercomputer
  • OzSTAR will primarily be used by OzGrav in the search for gravitational waves

Swinburne has launched one of the most powerful computers in the country in a bid to help unlock the secrets of the Universe.

The new $4 million supercomputer, OzSTAR, is based at Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus and features a performance peak of 1.2 petaflops.

The computer, powered by Dell EMC, launches Swinburne into the petascale era of supercomputing and will enable the Swinburne-based Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery’s (OzGrav) to search for gravitational waves and study the extreme physics of black holes and warped space-time.

An artist painting the supercomputer.
The finished design features gas swirling around two black holes. 

OzGrav Director, Professor Matthew Bailes, says OzSTAR will be used to shift through reams of data and be powerful enough to search for coalescing black holes and neutron stars in real time.

“In one second, OzSTAR can perform 10,000 calculations for every one of the 100 billion starts in our galaxy,” says Professor Bailes.

Manager of the supercomputer, Professor Jarrod Hurley, says OzSTAR maintains Swinburne as an academic leader in supercomputing with a focus on hybrid CPU-GPU technology across the system.

He says the supercomputer will also be key in enabling Swinburne’s Data Science Research Institute to tackle future data science challenges such as machine learning, deep learning, database interrogation and visualisation.

Understanding gravitational waves

Gravitational waves were first predicted 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his theory of General Relativity, which described how gravity warps and distorts space-time.

Einstein's mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects (such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) distort both space and time and emit a new type of radiation, known as gravitational waves.

But these gravitational waves remained undetected for a century until advances in detector sensitivity at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (aLIGO) in the US enabled their detection in September 2015.

Shortly after being switched on, aLIGO physically sensed distortions in space-time itself caused by passing gravitational waves generated by two colliding black holes nearly 1.3 billion light years away that moved its mirrors by just 1/10000th of the width of a proton.

A close-up shot of part of the supercomputer.
The supercomputer is powered by Dell EMC and features a performance peak of 1.2 petaflops.

The supercomputer features 4140 SkyLake cores at 2.3Ghz across 107 standard compute and eight data crunching nodes, 230 NVIDIA Tesla P100 12 GB GPUs, 272 Intel Xeon Phi cores at 1.6Ghz across four C6320pKNL nodes, a high speed low latency network fabric able to move data across each building block at over 100Gbps with various features to ensure reliability and traffic flow and 5 petabyte of usable storage via the Lustre ZFS file system at 30GB/s throughput.