Australia’s New Supercomputer Has Been Unveiled and Its Name Is Adorable

Australia’s New Supercomputer Has Been Unveiled and Its Name Is Adorable
Image: Getty

Australian researchers have caught a glimpse of a new mega-powerful computing system described as the fastest public supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere and named after one of the country’s cutest little guys: the quokka.

The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia has unveiled Setonix, a high-performance computer boasting the scientific name for WA’s quokka.

The new supercomputer is thanks to a $48 million contract signed with HPE a year ago.

The Pawsey centre is an unincorporated joint venture between the CSIRO, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia.

It currently serves over 1,600 researchers across Australia that are involved in more than 150 supercomputing projects. Nine Australian Research Centres of Excellence also benefit from the Pawsey centre.

Setonix supercomputer
Image: Pawsey Centre

Setonix is covered in artwork that reflects the skies it will help researchers unlock. Wajarri Yamatji visual artist Margaret Whitehurst produced the artwork for Setonix’s casing, inspired by the stars that shine over Wajarri country in Western Australia’s Mid-West.

It sits in its new home in WA alongside its supercomputer cousins, Magnus and Galaxy, with research allocations to begin in early 2022.

When fully operational, Setonix will be 30 times more powerful than the existing two systems combined, packing the punch of about 150,000 laptops working in parallel.

Stage 1 delivery of Setonix will increase the computing power of the centre by 45 per cent, Pawsey said. With Stage 2, slated for mid-next year, Setonix will be able to operate at a whopping 50 petaFLOPS of power. This is equivalent to three times the combined power of Australia’s current Tier 1 public research supercomputing facilities.

“This new system will accelerate discovery and enable more universities, scientific institutions and researchers – as well as our partners in industry and business – to access next-generation computing speed and data analysis,” Pawsey Centre executive director Mark Stickells said.

“The urgent problems of the 21st Century demand analysis and action sooner than can be achieved by traditional computing.

“Supercomputing is the path to understanding climate change, tracking the growth of a viral pandemic or providing pieces to puzzles we haven’t yet begun to solve.”

Setonix will process vast amounts of radio telescope data from projects related to the SKA.

The SKA – Square Kilometre Array – project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, which will eventually have over a square kilometre of collecting area.

It’s an international project that will consist of thousands of antennae spread across the world, with central cores of operation in South Africa and Western Australia.

Setonix will also play its part in many other projects of national and international significance supported by the Pawsey Centre.