Singapore looks to supercomputing to strengthen digital push


16 March 2017
Peter Ho of NSCC

The National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) is expected to train its compute power on growth areas such as big data, artificial intelligence and deep learning to help strengthen Singapore’s push to compete in the digital economy.

“Supercomputing is recognised as a major contributor to the economic competitiveness of many sectors,” said Peter Ho, chairman of the NSCC Steering Committee. These include the aerospace, automotive, biomedical, electronics, healthcare and pharmaceutical, ICT, marine and offshore engineering, oil and gas, financial, and services industries. “That’s almost everything,” he noted.

These economic imperatives led to the setting up of NSCC in 2015 to build the computational infrastructure for Singapore’s universities, research institutes and industry, and to address the country’s high performance computing (HPC) needs.

Speaking at the opening of the annual HPC conference Supercomputing Frontiers 2017, Ho said Singapore was only at the start of developing and implementing a HPC strategic roadmap.

It was only in December last year that the country entered the petascale league with the official launch of the Advanced Supercomputer for Petascale Innovation Research and Enterprise or ASPIRE 1 – the numeral indicating that it is just the first of several supercomputers to come.

ASPIRE 1, the first petascale supercomputer in Southeast Asia, will underpin the National Research Infrastructure of Singapore’s S$19 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise Masterplan (RIE2020). It sits on top of the National Infiniband Fabric that connects stakeholder campuses across Singapore and is also plugged into the InfiniCortex project, a worldwide Infiniband fabric that connects ASPIRE1 to any supercomputer centre in the world to facilitate collaboration and cooperation.

Ho noted that even at its launch last year, ASPIRE 1 was already operating close to its maximum capacity. “That was a very encouraging start,” he said. “To the NSCC, it is an indication of future demand and the strong promise of supercomputing in Singapore.”

During the Supercomputing Frontiers event, NSCC announced the soft launch of payment plans for the use of ASPIRE 1. These range from $500 to $5,000 a month, depending on requirements such as the number of user accounts, active jobs per tier and maximum CPU cores per job.

The event also saw the presentation of the inaugural HPC awards to recognise research and commercial efforts to tap on APIRE 1’s computational power to drive innovation, raise productivity and improve lives. The winners included organisations such as A*STAR’s Data Storage Institute (NSCC Outstanding HPC Scientific Award) and Institute of High Performance Computing (NSCC Outstanding HPC Innovation Award), and Keppel Offshore and Marine Technology Centre (NSCC Outstanding HPC Industry Application Award).

Supercomputing Frontiers 2017 attracted some 450 speakers and participants from 12 countries, among them HPC luminaries such as Professor Gordon Bell of the Gordon Bell Prize which recognises outstanding achievement in HPC; Professor Thom Dunning, who led the US National Centre for Supercomputing Applications; Professor Alessandro Curioni of IBM and Professor Fu Hao Huan, of the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi, China, home of the world’s fastest supercomputer.