The Australian National University has announced a new effort to make the incredible data-processing abilities of a supercomputer available to laboratories and researchers on every scale.

The National Computational Infrastructure is being created to allow researchers to tackle scientific big-data analyses such as rapidly sifting through reams of historical weather information, viewing the changes in decades of satellite imagery, billions of neurons or other complex natural phenomena, in real time.

At a cost of about $2.3 million in funding from the Federal Government's National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NECTAR) program, the NCI forms the Canberra node of the Nectar Research Cloud combined with seven other nodes around the country. A number of major Australian scientific groups have already signed on as users including the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and eight universities.

The supercomputer at the heart of the node is certainly a beastly device; the Dell 3200-core system uses Intel CPUs optimised for floating point calculations, high performance solid state memory modules and a 56Gbps Mellanox ethernet interconnection.

NCI cloud services manager Dr Joseph Antony says the supercomputer heart with a cloud interface offers the best of both worlds to the broadest possible amount of clients: “Researchers across the country will be able to access a science cloud,” he says, “you've got the supercomputer which is a big computational engine, deep storage and then you've got the cloud node which will allow you to create very flexible software environments and pipelines... you get the same capabilities in terms of throughput and bandwidth but it's more flexible.”