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Singapore invests S$200m to upgrade supercomputing capabilities

The investment will shore up Singapore’s supercomputing prowess to facilitate research collaboration, as well as address national and business challenges

Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) will pump in S$200m to upgrade the country’s supercomputing infrastructure in a bid to provide research institutions and universities with wider access to high-performance computing capabilities.

Speaking at the opening of Supercomputing Asia 2019 on 12 March, Singapore finance minister Heng Swee Keat said the investment, which is part of the S$19bn Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan, will provide 15 to 20 petaflops of high-end computing performance – equivalent to the computing power of a million laptops.

In addition, network speeds will also be improved to support the growing needs of Singapore’s national research institutions, enabling them to tap into other research platforms through collaborations with international partners, Heng said.

“This investment is critical – as we embark on our journey as a smart nation and digitalise our economy, we must upgrade our supercomputing resources to keep up with our partners globally, and to solve complex national challenges more quickly, more effectively,” he said.

Heng said these challenges include climate change, which Singapore is mitigating by analysing data on temperature changes and rainfall with high accuracy to better predict local weather changes. This will support urban planning efforts, and enable the government to plan ahead and improve thermal comfort in tropical Singapore, he added.

Urban planners can also make use of the enhanced supercomputing capabilities to analyse urban mobility conditions and driver behaviour on the roads. “This will enable planners to design more flexible and efficient transport systems, optimise traffic flow and to make travelling more efficient for our people,” Heng said.

Noting that the new investment will also open up opportunities for Singapore businesses, Heng said the National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) is working with Keppel Corporation and its laboratory at the National University of Singapore to optimise the design of its rigs and vessels.

The NSCC currently operates a one petaflop supercomputing system called Aspire 1, which touts 1,288 nodes, 128GB of DDR4 memory per node and over 14PB of storage. The system is linked by high bandwidth multi-gigabit networks to provide high speed access to users.

Singapore’s growing investments in supercomputing follows that of Australia, which earmarked A$70m last year to beef up its high-performance computing systems at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, a co-organiser of Supercomputing Asia 2019.

The investment will be used to fund replacements for Pawsey’s flagship supercomputer, Magnus, as well as the real-time supercomputer, Galaxy.

Pawsey chair John Langoulant noted that the new investment will strengthen Australia’s position in the global research environment and enable Australia to stay globally competitive.

“This is a reflection of the government’s understanding of the value that the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre delivers to the Australian scientific landscape by accelerating innovation and increasing opportunities for engagement between Australian researchers and their peers internationally,” he said.

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