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University of Waikato installs NVIDIA supercomputer to advance AI research

20 Apr 2021

A supercomputer dubbed ‘The Ferrari of computing’ has been installed at the University of Waikato to help grow the university’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) research and development.

This week the university announced the deployment of the NVIDIA DGX A100 supercomputer, nicknamed the Ferrari of Computing because of its ability to process massive amounts of data at ‘lightning-fast' speeds.

Fujitsu supplied the NVIDIA supercomputer, which fits into a rack in the university’s main server room.

The university’s first project involves more than one million photos in a publicly available database, which will be used to train models to learn and classify New Zealand plants and animals.

While traditional computing systems could take months or even years to complete these kinds of activities, University of Waikato professor Albert Bifet says that the NVIDIA supercomputer will reduce this processing down to a matter of days.

“It will enable them to gain insights and progress their research at an unprecedented scale,” Bifet adds.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence can also be trained to recognise patterns, facial expressions, and spoken words, or they can find anomalies like credit card fraud.

“AI is a powerful tool that enables researchers to achieve scientific breakthroughs and discoveries on areas such as climate change and biodiversity, which are critically important to New Zealand and the world,” says NVIDIA’s A/NZ enterprise country manager Sudarshan Ramachandran.

NVIDIA’s DGX A100 is a supercomputer specifically designed to support data scientists, developers, and the evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The system has a total of 320 gigabytes (GB) of GPU memory, made up of eight A100 GPUs with 40 GB of memory each. When they work together, these GPUs could process five quadrillion basic mathematic operations every second.

NVIDIA Mellanox InfiniBand networking also supports data supply to the system.

The university funded the purchase of the NVIDIA supercomputer through income earned from commercial license sales of WEKA software, which is an in-house developed suite of Java-based software tools for data mining and machine learning.

“Being able to use the funds from WEKA, which has proved so successful, is a real win for us. WEKA software has been bought by several large international IT companies. It shows the success and depth of expertise we have here and has enabled us to reinvest back into our group,” concludes Bifet.

The University of Waikato says it remains committed to being a ‘world leader’ in AI research and development.