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New Zealand research infrastructure boosted by new investment

A new $2.1 million investment announced by New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) will ensure the country's national research computing platforms remain responsive and high-performing to power researchers’ data-centric and data-intensive research.

The investment, a collaboration by the University of Auckland, University of Otago, and Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, will double the performance and significantly extend the computational capabilities of the Mahuika High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster. 

Since Mahuika came online in 2018 as part of New Zealand's last major national infrastructure investment, the number of users and scale of research on the HPC platform has grown nearly 50 per cent year on year. In the previous 12 months, the Mahuika and Maui clusters have seen record-setting usage and sustained demand over time.  

Nick Jones, director of NeSI comments: ‘What we're seeing in the sector is a rapid uptake in software, tools, and technologies around computation - we're lifting the scale and increasing the richness of the platform to keep pace with researchers exploring the frontiers of their science. No one party is capable of taking on that challenge alone, so this joint investment by NeSI Collaborators — the University of Auckland, the University of Otago and Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research — is the sector coming together to achieve scale and enable science.’

Whether it's Covid-19 modelling, agritech, engineering, language analysis, environment and primary production genomics, or human and taonga species genomics, HPC and eScience are essential to the conduct of contemporary research. 

‘New Zealand researchers are using HPC and eScience to open doors for their contributions to leading-edge research on the global stage,’ adds Jones. ‘HPC continues to be recognised as a strategic national capability, from the hardware innovations through to the societal and science challenges it enables.’

This upgrade and extension of Mahuika brings together new tools and technologies to keep pace with today's increasing diversity of research drivers. These include growth in data, the complexity of models, and a spread of maturity across research communities. 

Mahuika's additional capacity – based on the class-leading AMD Milan architecture – will allow a wider range of research communities to adopt HPC approaches and build digital skills within their research teams. New NVIDIA HGX 80GB A100 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) cards – building on previous investments and paired with specialised software and tools for machine learning – will support more analysis at scale. Expanded high-memory capabilities will allow rapid simultaneous processing for faster results and insights. Also, all components are being designed with a reduced carbon footprint in mind. In addition to doubling Mahuika's computing power, the new nodes are more than 2.5 times more power-efficient. The new equipment will be hosted in Wellington, at the national purpose-designed and built HPC facility of NIWA, another NeSI Collaborator.

This investment also builds upon an ongoing partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), who will work with NeSI engineers to bring the Mahuika extension's technology design and architecture to life.

‘It is extremely positive to see a previous Cray systems customer see value in the broader portfolio that HPE can offer HPC clients by continuing the partnership a second time round,’ said April Neoh, HPE account executive, HPC/AI & Big Data Storage. ‘With HPC and Enterprise Systems continuing to see convergence due to BigData and AI, the synergies of both our organisations will be key in leading New Zealand organizations of all sizes to be able to reap HPC's benefits without the headaches traditionally associated with such a deployment.’

As demand from multiple science investments continues to drive contention, future investments will be required to sustain and advance New Zealand's research sector.

‘The richness and diversity of researcher needs are driving new and different expectations around how NeSI’s infrastructure and service models should evolve,’ said Jones. ‘This extension of Mahuika is a first step in our journey towards delivering the sophisticated and complex services and tools NeSI Collaborators and stakeholders need to sustain a healthy research ecosystem.’


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