Aussie supercomputers brace for COVID-19 impact

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Aussie supercomputers brace for COVID-19 impact
Source: Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

Pawsey, NCI prepare to WFH.

Two of Australia’s largest high performance computing (HPC) facilities are readying their staff and users for the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including possible disruptions to service if staff aren’t on premises to address disruptions.

Both the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University have advised that staff are already implementing social distancing techniques in the office and preparing to work from home if necessary.

The NCI advised that, as of 18 March, HPC services will continue as normal and jobs can be submitted as they normally would within a user’s quarterly allocations, with all queues for compute time also operating as normal.

The same goes for its research data services and virtual research environments.

“NCI’s systems and services are designed to be robust, and we are prepared for periods of remote operation if our staff are required to work offsite,” the NCI said.

It also reassured users that if ANU declares campus-wide closures, NCI’s systems and services will continue.

Meanwhile, Pawsey said that if a site shutdown is deemed necessary and a widespread working from home scenario is implemented it will start running in asset preservation mode until further notice.

“This means our systems will remain operational, but in the event of a general loss of community network connectivity, you may be unable to interact with the facility, including its infrastructure,” Pawsey said.

“Should technical issues occur during the site shutdown period, where possible, staff will continue to provide support, investigate and/or resolve problems.”

However, Pawsey advised that some issues may not be able to be fixed remotely and therefore might not be resolved until normal support services are resumed.

For institutions dialling into HPC services through the AARNet, the network operator has advised it does not foresee any interruptions to its services.

AARNet has also tripled its direct network capacity between China and Australia while continuing to optimise traffic routing in collaboration with its customers.

“We are working closely with our global research and education network partners to meet the increasing demand for international bandwidth and capacity,” AARNet said.

It has also doubled the capacity of its Zoom teleconferencing service amid increased demand from customers shifting to online course delivery.

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