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21 September 2021 Partner Release

Stage 1 of Pawsey’s new $48 million HPE Cray EX supercomputer, known as Setonix – the scientific name for Western Australia’s cheerful marsupial, the quokka – now stands in the white space at the Pawsey Centre next to its supercomputer cousins, Magnus and Galaxy.

When fully operational, Setonix will be 30 times more powerful than the existing two systems combined, packing the punch of about 150,000 laptops working in parallel.

Stage 1 delivery of Setonix will increase the computing power of the centre by 45 per cent. 

When Stage 2 is installed in mid-2022, Setonix will be able to operate at 50 petaFLOPS of power, equivalent to three times the combined power of Australia’s current Tier 1 public research supercomputing facilities. 

Pawsey Centre Executive Director Mark Stickells says through Setonix, Australia is on the cusp of the biggest computing power advance in the nation’s history.

“This new system will accelerate discovery and enable more universities,  scientific institutions and researchers — as well as our partners in industry and business — to access next-generation computing speed and data analysis,” he said.

“The urgent problems of the 21st Century demand analysis and action sooner than can be achieved by traditional computing.

“Supercomputing is the path to understanding climate change, tracking the growth of a viral pandemic or providing pieces to puzzles we haven’t yet begun to solve. 

“Setonix marks a step change in Pawsey’s supercomputing firepower, and this additional capacity will allow more researchers and industries to access next-generation computing speed and data analysis.” 

Stage 1 will see a team of early adopter researchers run code to fine tune Setonix before new allocations start in 2022.

Wajarri Yamatji visual artist Margaret Whitehurst produced the artwork for Setonix’s casing, inspired by the stars that shine over Wajarri country in Western Australia’s Mid-West. 

“Margaret’s design is a beautiful representation of a tradition of Aboriginal astronomy that dates back thousands of years,” Mr Stickells says. 

“Margaret and the Wajarri people are the traditional owners of CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia where one part of the world’s largest radio astronomy observatory, the Square Kilometre Array, will be built. 

“Setonix will process vast amounts of radio telescope data from SKA-related projects, and many other projects of national and international significance that we are proud to support.” 

Setonix is so powerful its computing power is described in petaFLOPS, representing the number of floating-point operations that can be conducted per second.  

Setonix will deliver 50 petaFLOPS of power. The existing supercomputers at the Pawsey Centre, Magnus and Galaxy, together have 1.83 petaFLOPS of raw compute power. 

To match what one petaFLOPS computer system can do in just one second, you would have to perform one calculation every second for 31,688,765 years

“Supercomputers divide big problems into smaller problems that can be solved at the same time — known as parallel processing,” Mr Stickells explained. 

“Our existing flagship system capacity is equivalent to about 33,000 PCs working in parallel, so a problem that would take almost a year for a single computer to solve working step by step takes our current system about 12 minutes.

“Setonix is a dramatic leap forward for Australian science.”

This media release was originally published by the Pawsey Supercomputering Centre: Pawsey provides the first look at Setonix, wrapped in stars.



Pawsey's supercomputer, Setonix, is adorned with Margaret Whitehurst's painting and the image of a quokka. ©  Pawsey Supercomputing Centre
Margaret Whitehurst's painting of astronomical objects has become the artwork to adorn Pawsey's newest supercomputer, Setonix. ©  Margaret Whitehurst

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