Australia commissions Cray supercomputer

March 19, 2010 at 9:40 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, March 19 (UPI) -- Australia's Defense Department has commissioned a Cray supercomputer as part of its ramping up of terrorist intelligence gathering.

Australian Minister for Defense Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet made the announcement but gave no details of the computer, which sits within the Defense Signals Directorate.

"The new supercomputer delivered by Cray Incorporated supports DSD's signals intelligence and cybersecurity missions," said Combet. "It also supports the White Paper goal of providing more and faster intelligence support and assists in the response to cyberincidents and threats.

"The government has made a commitment under the Defense White Paper 2009 to significantly upgrade intelligence and cybersecurity capabilities. Intelligence is fundamental to the security of our deployed forces and to wider government in protecting Australia against external threats such as terrorism."

Cray has had a relationship with the DSD for more than 25 years, a report by ITNews.com, an Australian information technology news Web site, said. In 1986, DSD acquired a Cray research system, which was Australia's first supercomputer.

The value of the current deal was classified and was a "sensitive deal with a sensitive customer," a Cray Inc. representative said.

A representative for Combet's office said that "national security" concerns meant officials were unable to discuss the cost and location of the supercomputer and how it would be used, ITNews reported.

In early January the Ministry of Defense said it is recruiting 130 cybersecurity experts within five years on top of the 51 who work at its new Cyber Security Operations Center within the DSD in Canberra. The recruits will be IT engineers, programmers and analysts, many of whom will move from the DSD.

Also working at the center are representatives from the Defense Intelligence Organization, Australia's military, scientists from the Defense Science and Technology Organization and the domestic spy agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

At the opening of the center the government said that it suffered up to 200 electronic security incidents each month in 2009.

In 2006 Cray installed a Cray XT3 supercomputer at the University of Australia as part of the institute's large-scale computational studies and simulations program for geophysics, chemistry, astrophysics, biology, rock mechanics, quantum mechanics and water research. The XT3 system has a high-speed 3D torus interconnect, advanced MPP operating system and high-speed global input/output, allowing it to scale applications from 200 to more than 30,000 processors without performance loss.

Last month Cray Inc. won all three high-performance computing system awards by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of its 2010 High Performance Computing Modernization Program. The contract, worth more than $45 million including multi-year services, is the largest Defense Department HPCMP system award to a single vendor in the history of the program, a statement by Cray said.

Cray will provide three of its next-generation supercomputing systems to top Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers. These include the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Alaska and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss.

The Cray supercomputers will support research and product development of new materials, fuels, armor and weapons systems. The systems will also assist long-term weather predictions to plan humanitarian and military operations throughout the world.

The company, with headquarters in Seattle, was incorporated in December 1987 under the name Tera Computer Company, which changed its name to Cray Inc. in connection with its acquisition of the Cray Research assets in April 2000. It has around 850 employees worldwide with engineering facilities in Minnesota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin where it also has manufacturing facilities.

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