HPC and research infrastructure need reworking, says new roadmap

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HPC and research infrastructure need reworking, says new roadmap

Gov lays out priorities for a decade.

Australia’s research sector needs more investment in making high performance computing (HPC) more available and equitable, according to the ten-year 2021 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

As one of its eight recommendations, the roadmap, published by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on Thursday, also calls for a new national digital research infrastructure strategy.

The roadmap said the strategy should apply to digital research infrastructure that’s of significance, scale, complexity, or cost that’s beyond any single institution to operate.

Since the 2016 NRI roadmap was published, continuing exponential data acquisition and storage, the growth of AI and ML, broader use of HPC, and the growth in open science require a new digital research infrastructure, the roadmap said.

A new strategy would:

  • Coordinate and integrate existing national, institutional and commercial NDRI to streamline access for researchers and users;
  • Provide direction on investments to address pressing issues including digital skills and expertise, data collections, data standards, data storage and data synthesis, analysis and visualisation; and 
  • Plan and prepare for future challenges and opportunities including HPC, exascale computing, quantum computing, big data and commercial and non-commercial cloud services (such as the Nectar Research Cloud and AARNet CloudStor).

Data access, the roadmap noted, is becoming more challenging, demanding standards and strategies for data interoperability, access rules, and discoverability.

The roadmap also calls for trusted identity and access management. These are currently the responsibility of the Australian Access Foundation, but the report noted that this is managed outside the current NCRIS-funded NRI network. 

“A system-wide approach to identity and access management would result in more secure research infrastructure and allow secure access and global connectivity for Australian researchers,” the roadmap stated.

HPC revamp

The roadmap also calls for a shake-up of Australia’s research HPC capabilities. 

Its key criticisms of the current state of affairs are that Australia’s two Tier-1 facilities – the Pawsey Centre in Western Australia and the ANU’s National Computational Infrastructure – can be difficult to access due to strong demand; and while institutions have developed their own Tier-2 facilities in response, these too are not always widely available.

Similarly, the roadmap noted that national access to GPU clusters, important for AI research and applications, “is not currently equitable, inhibiting technology innovation”.
It suggests cloud computing, both non-commercial and commercial, could help address access to HPC.

Other key aspects of the report’s digital research infrastructure requirements include treating software as national research infrastructure; and development of digital skills.

A coordinated national digital research infrastructure is needed, the report stated: “Coordinated planning across the ecosystem is also necessary to address emerging challenges and opportunities such as exascale computing where the computing, data and software infrastructure must evolve and grow together to ensure no one component lags behind”.

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