Compaq supercomputing for science research

A three-year alliance between Compaq and the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) will see the vendor provide its supercomputing technology to the partnership's national facility for research in all areas of science and engineering including chemistry, physics, environmental science and biotechnology.

The agreement, signed between Compaq and The Australian National University Canberra -- which acts as host institution for APAC -- will see Compaq supply an AlphaServer SC -- including more than 450 Alpha processors -- with system and development software.

APAC is a partnership of seven organisations involving most Australian universities and the CSIRO.

According to a Compaq statement, the overall investment in APAC and the partners is around $80 million over the three-year term.

The Compaq solution, which the company says will be in the top 60 of the world's most powerful computing systems, will be available for use by any researcher in Australia at a higher education institution, and will be used to conduct innovative, large-scale scientific and engineering research, according to John O'Callaghan, executive director of APAC.

Housed in the APAC National Facility at the ANU in Canberra, the supercomputer will be available for use by researchers working in areas such as molecular modelling for new drugs and pattern discovery for fraud detection.

O'Callaghan said the cost for the whole facility including the people involved, is around $22 million, with 15 people involved in the technical support.

As part of this collaboration, APAC will also work closely with Pittsburgh, US, Supercomputing Centre (PSC) which has just been installed and is operating on the same system as APAC will get in April.

The upgraded system, or phase two, which APAC will get in October, will be installed in PSC in July.

"[PSC] will advise us and perhaps give us tips. Compaq is providing its most powerful systems and these have also won contracts at other international sites including systems for the US Department of Energy, and the PSC," O'Callaghan said.

He said APAC has plans to link with broadband networks to establish and operate a broadband network connecting the APAC partner sites and a number of other networks, including a link to the international site.

APAC has applied to the federal government's Department of Communication and Information Technology Association for funding under the BITS (Building on IT Strengths) advanced networks program, and with bids currently being evaluated, a decision is expected by April, O'Callaghan said.

The initial system will be operational in April 2001, and implementation will be complete in October 2001.

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