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Singapore to build second national supercomputer with more on roadmap

ZDNet logo ZDNet 4/28/2021 Eileen Yu
© Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Singapore will build a second national supercomputer system to support the local research community, providing eight times more compute capacity than its predecessor. Slated to be operational by early-2022, the system is one of more planned over the next five years. 

Singapore's National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) said Wednesday the new system was expected to deliver up to 10 petaflops of raw compute capacity, or eight times more powerful than its predecessor. Called Aspire1, the current supercomputer was commissioned in 2016, following the establishment of NSCC in 2015 to manage the national high-performance computing (HPC) facility. 

Funds for the new supercomputer system were part of the government's SG$200 million grant from the National Research Foundation, a unit under the Prime Minister's Office, to build up local HPC resources.

NSCC said the new system would be the "first of a series" that would provide future supercomputing requirements to facilitate various research areas, including climate change, smart nation initiatives, and biomedical science. These systems would be rolled out in phases through to 2025. 

When asked, a NSCC spokesperson declined to provide further details on this roadmap. 

He told ZDNet there were 450 research and education projects running on the current supercomputer, supporting more than 200 different organisations. These ran the gamut of research fields that included big data analytics, weather and atmospheric science, health and biomedical science, genomics, and precision medicine. 

Amongst the local research institutes, institutes of higher learning, government agencies, and local companies currently tapping the supercomputer were National Environment Agency, National University of Singapore, Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*Star), and Temasek Polytechnic.  

The NSCC spokesperson noted that the new supercomputer system was expected to offer more capacity to further support demands for HPC resources in these research areas. 

Worth SG$40 million ($30.14 million), development of the new system was awarded to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and would feature warm water-cooled system designed for tropical climates such as Singapore's. 

HPE said in a statement the national systems would be built using the vendor's Cray EX product line and armed with nearly 900 CPU and GPU computing nodes as well as more than 100,000 computing cores. It would offer tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and deep machine learning to optimise modelling and simulation, including software simulation for quantum computing

Noting that supercomputers had been integral for the local research community, NSCC's steering committee chairman Peter Ho said such systems helped simulate the dispersion of COVID-19 droplets to mitigate spread as well as supported urban planners in developing townships.

Lim Keng Hui, executive director at A*Star's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), said: "The upgraded supercomputing resources will enable IHPC to deepen research in critical innovation areas, such as environmental modelling for urban sustainability, materials design for low-carbon and circular economy, and AI to improve healthcare. It will also support new research into HPC-AI integration and quantum computing to accelerate computational modelling and simulation."

NSCC last November inked an agreement with Japan's Riken and Rist to allow Singapore researched to directly access the latter's supercomputer system, Fugaku. Currently the world's fastest supercomputer, the Japanese system boasts 442 petaflops of compute power and is almost three times more powerful than its nearest competitor. 

The NSCC partnership would enable Singapore researchers to apply for access to Fugaku and connect via dedicated fibre links of up to 100Gbps. 

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