Feeds

A$100m supercomputer project queried

Auditor critical of Uni of Melbourne cluster of problems

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

A A$100 million supercomputer facility in Victoria, funded by A$50m of government funds with the rest coming from the University of Melbourne, has come under fire from that state’s Auditor-General.

The VLSCI – Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative – is due to be completed in 2013, and would create one of the world’s top-ten facilities. Stage 1 of the project, a smaller IBM cluster, went into operation in August of 2010. The final facility is intended to have clusters from both IBM and SGI.

However, the Auditor-General’s report casts doubt on whether the facility would actually meet researchers’ needs.

The VLSCI project was conceived by the University of Melbourne and successfully pitched to the government. However, the auditor says “the absence of sufficient needs and options analysis and sound procurement processes” means that the University can’t show if the money will be well spent.

According to the report, thee university approached the market before it had found out what researchers actually needed, and it can’t demonstrate value for money.

The 400T flop facility was announced amid much fanfare in 2008. However, the change of government since then led to the referral of the project to the Auditor-General.

The risks of allowing haste to overcome prudence are highlighted in the report, which says that although the proposals received in March 2009 did not meet all of its requirements, the University preferred to work to reduced scope rather than repeat its approach to market. The proposals received in 2009 were also over budget by more than A$6m.

The report also suggests that IBM’s close relationship with the university gave it advantages in the tender process. While not naming IBM, the auditor says “the company selected as the university’s partner was involved in the project since 2007.”

This gave it “an intimate knowledge of the university’s requirements and input into the design of the initiative; time to determine how it could assist the university deliver the initiative; and extensive access to university staff.”

Without suggesting impropriety, the report notes that there was “little recognition of this advantage in university documents”.

IBM’s success at relationship-building in Victoria has also been demonstrated by its decision to locate a 150-staff R&D lab in Melbourne.

The report also notes that the contracts were structured in such a way as to give the university little scope to change vendors between its first-stage rollout and the larger second stage.

Although the university believed it could either vary its requirements or choose a different vendor between the two stages, the report concludes that the contract “provides for the automatic expiry” of its agreement “on the termination of the PCF fit out agreement … As a result, if the University wants to continue its research partnership, it does not have the option to engage a different company to deliver stage 2”. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
SHOCK and AWS: The fall of Amazon's deflationary cloud
Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
BlackBerry: Toss the server, mate... BES is in the CLOUD now
BlackBerry Enterprise Services takes aim at SMEs - but there's a catch
The triumph of VVOL: Everyone's jumping into bed with VMware
'Bandwagon'? Yes, we're on it and so what, say big dogs
Carbon tax repeal won't see data centre operators cut prices
Rackspace says electricity isn't a major cost, Equinix promises 'no levy'
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.