Supercomputer network to be launched in Auckland

23 June 2011

A national supercomputer network to boost research on many fronts, from climate change to drug discovery, from nanoparticles to models of the human heart, will be launched tomorrow by the Hon Wayne Mapp at host institution The University of Auckland.

The New Zealand e-Science Infrastructure (NeSI) is designed to keep New Zealand at the cutting-edge of science by providing researchers with the high-performance computers, data storage capacity, and technical expertise that they require.

“Scientific research is becoming increasingly data-intensive and the questions scientists are tackling are increasingly complex,” says Professor Mark Gahegan of The University of Auckland’s Centre for e-Research, which led the successful bid to establish NeSI.

“In fact, New Zealand relies on research into some of science’s most complex problems to support its fundamental industries and to understand its complex landscape and geology.

“High-performance computing and its related infrastructure have therefore become indispensable components of modern science.”

“NeSI represents the most significant infrastructure investment for New Zealand’s science system in the last twenty years. It provides not only the hardware to handle massive computational loads but also the skilled support team to create custom solutions for specific research problems.”

The proposal to create NeSI was built in part on experience with the Broadband Enabled Science and Technology GRID (BeSTGRID), a smaller national distributed computing service led from The University of Auckland that has grown to include all of the Universities and some Crown Research Institutes in the country.

“Scientists from across the University who have already benefited from BeSTGRID facilities range from medicinal chemists using computer modelling to design new drugs to physicists connecting to the Large Hadron Collider to study the origins of the universe,” says Professor Gahegan.

“Our experience with BeSTGRID has shown what can be achieved through very close collaboration between researchers, computer science and IT support. With the launch of NeSI we look forward to providing this service to even more researchers both here and around the country.”

NeSI brings together new and existing supercomputer hubs at The University of Auckland, Canterbury University, the University of Otago, NIWA, AgResearch and Landcare Research, and is open to researchers around the country. It uses the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN) to connect researchers from all institutions to its national data and computing infrastructure.

Funding of $47 million over four years, co-invested by the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the six partner research organisations, was announced in February and NeSI will be officially launched at The University of Auckland tomorrow.

The plans for NeSI took shape over the last two years through coordination across the partner institutions, broad consultation with the wider research sector, and support from the Government.