Australia's supercomputing legacy lives on in every state

ANU plays host to researchers commemorating APAC

The Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) may be wrapping up after seven years of existence, but its legacy and the lessons learned will live on.

The facility has given researchers access to super-computing capability that ranks with the top performers in the world, and while the body is to be disbanded, the capability lives on.

"The development of APAC brought about a significant increase in the sophistication of computing resources available to Australian researchers," freelance research strategist Dr Thomas Barlow said today.

"[It has also] clearly nurtured a community of researchers who were able to take good advantage of these resources across a range of research fields."

Barlow's book about the contributions APAC has made towards advanced computer research in Australia, entitled 'At the dawn of eResearch in Australia: contributions from the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing' was officially launched at the Australian National University earlier today

APAC was formed in 2000 as a joint research venture between the ANU, CSIRO and universities and researchers in every state.

The goals were to facilitate advanced computer research through investment in technology, and to build a collaborative community of experts.

According to Barlow, APAC exceeded expectations.

APAC has supported advanced research in disciplines ranging from molecular biology to earth science to astrophysics. There are also smaller but growing communities dedicated to research in non-scientific disciplines like linguistics and economic modeling.

"APAC helped position Australia to create broader e-infrastructure. It cultivated a national community of researchers and support specialists," he says.

According to Barlow, well over 1000 researchers access facilities run by APAC partners, and this community will remain even after APAC ceases to exist as an organization.

Barlow said APAC was also instrumental in augmenting Australia's technological edge. Australia has made the top 100 list of the most powerful supercomputers in the world almost every year since APAC's founding.

"[By comparison,] between 1993 and 2001, Australia only once supported a top-100 computer," he said, "and only a fraction of [its] resources were available for national use."

APAC is disbanding to comply with the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy [NCRIS], but the new regime will follow closely in APAC's footsteps, Barlow says.

Speaking at the launch, ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb said APAC-style collaboration will become increasingly important in the near future.

"The information partnership will become an increasingly important part of [researchers'] lives - not one institution is really big enough to go it alone," he said.

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