From CSIRO: “CSIRO powers bionic vision research with new Dell EMC PowerEdge based artificial intelligence capability”

CSIRO bloc

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

18 Jul 2017
Andrew Warren
Communications Advisor
Phone +61 7 3833 5666
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Dell EMC Bracewell super computer (artist’s impression). Photographer: Brian Davis.

CSIRO has chosen Dell EMC to build a new scientific computing capability, kicking off a new generation of research.

News highlights

Dell EMC partners with CSIRO to build its new artificial intelligence system, which went live early July 2017.
The system will help Data61’s Computer Vision group use large data sets for its bionic vision solution, helping it process more images and provide contextual meaning for recipients.
Named after Australian astronomer and engineer Ronald N. Bracewell, it is a turn-key system built on Dell EMC’s PowerEdge platform with partner GPUs for computation and InfiniBand networking.

CSIRO will partner with Dell EMC to build a new large scale scientific computing system to expand CSIRO’s capability in deep learning, a key approach to furthering progress towards artificial intelligence.

The new system is named ‘Bracewell’ after Ronald N Bracewell, an Australian astronomer and engineer who worked in the CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory during World War II, and whose work led to fundamental advances in medical imaging.

In addition to artificial intelligence, the system provides capability for research in areas as diverse as virtual screening for therapeutic treatments, traffic and logistics optimisation, modelling of new material structures and compositions, machine learning for image recognition and pattern analysis.

CSIRO requested tenders in November 2016 to build the new system with a $4 million budget, and following Dell EMC’s successful proposal, the new system was installed in five days across May and June 2017. The system is now live and began production in early July 2017.

Greater scale and processing power enables richer, more realistic vision solution.

One of the first research teams to benefit from the new processing power will be Data61’s Computer Vision group, led by Associate Professor Nick Barnes. His team developed the software for a bionic vision solution that aims to restore sight for those with profound vision loss, through new computer vision processing that uses large scale image datasets to optimise and learn more effective processing.

Bracewell will help the research team scale their software to tackle new and more advanced challenges, and deliver a richer and more robust visual experience for the profoundly vision impaired.

“When we conducted our first human trial, participants had to be fully supervised and were mostly limited to the laboratory, but for our next trial we’re aiming to get participants out of the lab and into the real world, controlling the whole system themselves,” Associate Professor Barnes said.

With access to this new computing capability, Professor Barnes and his team will be able to use much larger data sets to help train the software to recognise and process more images, helping deliver a greater contextual meaning to the recipient.

“To make this a reality, we need to build vision processing systems that show accurate visualisations of the world in a broad variety of scenarios. These will enable people to visualise the world through their bionic vision in a way that enables them to safely and effectively interact in challenging visual environments,” Professor Barnes said.

“This new system will provide greater scale and processing power we need to build our computer vision systems by optimisation of processing over broader scenarios, represented by much larger sets of images, to help train the software to understand and represent the world. We’ll be able to take our computer vision research to the next level, solving problems through leveraging large scale image data that most labs around the world aren’t able to.”

Turnkey installation speeds time to results

Bracewell is a turn-key system built on Dell EMC’s PowerEdge platform, with partner technology including GPUs for computation and InfiniBand networking, which pieces all the compute nodes together in a low latency and high bandwidth solution faster than traditional networking.

Dell EMC ANZ High-Performance Computing Lead, Andrew Underwood, said the installation process was streamlined and optimised for deep learning applications, with Bright Cluster Manager technology helping put these frameworks in place faster.

“Our turn-key system removes the complexity from the installation, management and use of artificial intelligence frameworks, and has enabled CSIRO to speed up its time to market for scientific outcomes, which will in turn boost Australia’s competitiveness in the global economy,” Mr Underwood said.

The system includes:

114 x PowerEdge C4130 with NVIDIA P100 GPUs, NVLINK, dual Intel Xeon CPU and 100Gbps EDR InfiniBand
1,634,304 CUDA Compute Cores
3192 Xeon Compute Cores
13 x 100Gbps 36p EDR InfiniBand switch fabric
Bright Cluster Manager Software 8.0

Doubling the aggregate computational power available to researchers.

CSIRO Deputy Chief Information Officer, and Head of Scientific Computing, Angus Macoustra, said the system is crucial to the organisation’s work in identifying and solving emerging science problems.

“This is a critical enabler for CSIRO science, engineering and innovation. As a leading global research organisation, it’s important to sustain our global competitiveness by maintaining the currency and performance of our computing and data infrastructures,” Mr Macoustra said.

“The power of this new system is that it allows our researchers to tackle challenging workloads and ultimately enable CSIRO research to solve real-world issues. The system will nearly double the aggregate computational power available to CSIRO researchers, and will help transform the way we do scientific research and development.”

Dell EMC ANZ Senior Vice President, Commercial and Public Sector, Angela Fox said “Dell EMC we’re committed to creating technologies that drive human progress.

“CSIRO’s research will change the way we live and work in the future for the better,” Ms Fox said. “We’re proud to play a part in evolving that work, and look forward to enabling scientific progress for years to come.”

The system builds on Dell EMC’s work in the high-performance computing space, with the Pearcey system installed in 2016 and numerous other systems for Australian universities such as the University of Melbourne ‘Spartan’, Monash University ‘MASSIVE3’ and the University of Sydney ‘Artemis’.

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CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.