Linux and High Performance Computing go hand in hand. So to see what Australian users have been doing with Linux and HPC, this year's linux.conf.au is holding a Birds of a Feather session on the topic. Before the session kicks off we take time to speak to the BoF coordinator Anthony David. During the working day Anthony works for SGI as the onsite engineer for the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC).
Here, we ask him about the state of HPC in Australia and where it is heading. The following responses are his own personal beliefs and not that of his employer.
What's your experience with clusters?
Eighteen months. I was hired by SGI to be the on-site engineer/ liaison for the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) national facility at ANU (Australian National University). The project had got to a stage where SGI were looking to employ a local Canberran and I was fortunate enough to be selected for the position. My day-to-day work is primarily hardware diagnosis and repair, SGI and SuSE software problem analysis and engineering liason. I did get a chance to teach myself some Fortran95 (I learnt FORTRAN IV many moons ago) as part of a Maths assignment that I ran on one of the nodes.
Are there lots of cluster activity in Australia?
Before I answer this question, I have to point out that High Performance Linux is not restricted to clusters. The facility for example has both a cluster of commodity deskside PCs and the "supercluster" which I support. This is a Non Uniform Memory Architecture (NUMA) machine which is configured into thirty 64-processor nodes.
Getting back to the question, there certainly are a lot of clusters deployed in Australia. While there is only one Australian computer in the current top 500 supercomputers, there are many clusters deployed in mining, industrial design and research.
What's the biggest cluster in Australia?
The APAC national facility is the largest supercomputer in Australia. As far as strict clusters are concerned, I would not hazard a guess as I am only familiar with SGI's customer base. Personally, I hope to broaden that familiarity as a result of the BoF.
Where are things headed with HPC in Australia?
Again, I am not a HPC guru or a market analyst, but I think as data storage grows and specific applications outgrow the traditional server base, we will see HPC being deployed in the enterprise computing area.
Naturally, the traditional areas such as "eResearch" will grow as demands for storage in the petabytes becomes more commonplace as well as the need for facilities to process this data. For example, APAC held a seminar recently where people from the social sciences, geography and archaeology presented their recent work using HPC alongside the traditional astronomers, materials researchers and quantum chemists.