Game-changing is a phrase used often these days. But Defence Science and Technology’s John Taylor says it’s an apt descriptor for the high-performance computing (HPC) service that DST is building for Defence.

“It really will make a difference,” Mr Taylor said.

Hi confidence is based on his experience establishing and managing a HPC team at CSIRO.

“Defence scientists will be able to run code thousands of times faster than on their high-end desktop computers," he said.

"That means shortening the run time for complex problems to realistic timeframes and tackling problems we couldn’t even dream of attempting on a desktop.

"High-performance computing offers a whole range of advantages, including accelerating the innovation cycle, which is critical to maintaining competitiveness.”

Mr Taylor likens high-performance computing to the equivalent of Formula 1 racing cars compared with a family car.

“These super computers tend to be one-off, unique designs tailored for specific needs and tuned for the best performance. Everything the HPC team does is designed to improve the performance of researchers’ codes," he said.

There has been a massive uptake of HPC by universities and research organisations. It has become a tool of the trade and a way to deal with huge amounts of data and most areas of Defence research will benefit from the new capability.

“Whether it’s modelling and simulation of a hypersonic object travelling through the atmosphere, or analysing the vast amounts of data from our modern weapon systems, datasets are now being described in petabytes, and will be rapidly expanding to collections and data sets measured in exabytes,” Mr Taylor said.

DST is aiming for a top-50 spot in the list of the world’s 500 fastest computers. In November 2018 the IBM Summit supercomputer developed for the US Department of Energy was ranked nummber one, with a speed rating of 122.3 petaflops. One petaflop is a unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million floating-point operations per second.

“Inside the top 50 is a suitable place for an organisation like DST to aim for,” Mr Taylor said.

His team has been operating a pilot high-performance computing capability at DST’s Melbourne site, with beta users helping to ramp up DST’s knowledge of how to operate a supercomputer in a secure environment, and, just as importantly, how to support and manage users efficiently.

This story originally appeared on the DST website