Your guide to Australian national computational facilities

Your guide to Australian national computational facilities
February 16, 2014 Sarah Nisbet

As well as the high-performance computing (HPC) facilities provided by your local service providers, Australian researchers are able to apply for resource allocations on large-scale national HPC facilities through the National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme(NCMAS). There is no charge to researchers for HPC allocations made by the NCMAS.

Note there is high demand for these resources so allocations are usually less than what is requested (and may be zero). Applications are assessed based on the merit of the research, the expected outcomes, track record, and the suitability of the resource for the proposed use.

The national facilities are a mix of general-purpose HPC systems, systems with specialised hardware (such as GPUs), and systems specialising in supporting particular research areas or activities (e.g. genomics and computational biology). A fraction of the capacity of these facilities is made available to the NCMAS, the rest is allocated to specific institutions or to specific research disciplines, with some support staff specialising in these discipline areas.

The following national facilities are currently available for the NCMAS:

  • NCI National Facility: Raijin, one of the fastest supercomputers in the world (over 1 PFlop peak performance). This system is aimed at users with very large-scale compute requirements, particularly those needing to use hundreds or thousands of compute cores for a single compute job. Some of the machine is dedicated to use for earth system sciences and climate science.
  • NCI Specialised Facility in Imaging and Visualisation (MASSIVE): A GPU cluster targeted at image processing, particularly for characterisation data (e.g. microscopy, X-ray, synchrotron, computed tomography).
  • NCI Specialised Facility in Bioinformatics: Reserved for computational biology, genomics and bioinformatics.
  • The Pawsey Centre: Later this year the Pawsey Centre is expected to install a PFlop supercomputer, some of which should be available to NCMAS, with most of the machine used to support geosciences and radio astronomy.

The main call for applications is in October, for allocations starting in January the following year. There may be an additional call in April for new projects. More information is available on the NCI website.

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