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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 9

(Question No. 1222)


Senator Archer asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 13 June 1986:

(1) What is the number of staff currently employed by CSIRONET.

(2) What is the expected expenditure by CSIRONET in the financial year 1985-86.

(3) What proportion of that expenditure is set aside for the purchase, maintenance, or running costs of capital equipment.

(4) What is the total annual cost, including lease cost, to the Organisation of the operation of the CYBER 205 super computer.

(5) What is the expected financial return from the CYBER 205's operation for 1985-86.

(6) How many hours per week is the CYBER 205 in operation.

(7) How many hours or part thereof is the CYBER 205 charged at full commercial rates.

(8) How many hours per week are charged at discounted rates.

(9) What are the eligibility criteria for access to the CYBER 205 super computer at discounted rates.

(10) What attempts has CSIRONET made to increase industry use of the CYBER 205 super computer.

(11) Why has maximum utilisation of the CYBER 205 super computer not been achieved.


Senator Button —The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) CSIRONET currently employs 149 people, comprising 135 permanent staff and 14 casual staff.

(2) $17,689,680.

(3) 72%.

(4) Total direct cost, including lease costs, of the CYBER 205 is:

$

Staff Costs...

235,000

Hardware, Software and

maintenance...

2,615,000

2,850,000

Lease costs have not ceased since CSIRO entered into an arrangement, with the approval of the Minister for Science, to purchase the CYBER 205 (for $3.7m) with effect from the commencement of 1987. The purchase arrangements are, however, spread over two years and CSIRO will be amortizing the capital outlay involved in future costings of machine time.

(5) The financial return from the CYBER 205 for 1985-86 was:

$

CSIRO...

695,000

Bureau of Meteorology...

244,300

Materials Research Laboratory, Defence Science and Technology Office...

35,200

Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics...

4,400

Department of Transport...

3,600

Department of Defence, Navy...

2,900

Industry...

23,600

1,009,000

(6) The CYBER 205 is scheduled to be in operation for 168 hours per week. After allowing for ``down-time'' associated with operating system maintenance, software and user support, the CYBER 205 is available to the user community for 120 equivalent machine hours per week.

(7) Earnings for the CYBER 205 at non discounted rates in 1985-86 were:

1st and 2nd quarter-0.5 hours/week

3rd quarter-2.0 hours/week

4th quarter-4.5 hours/week

These figures exclude time made available to industry for demonstration and ``benchmarking'' purposes. CSIRONET staff are making every effort to increase commercial utilisation and the above increasing trend reflects these efforts.

(8) At the beginning of 1986 CSIRO awarded some $2 million of CYBER 205 resources in grants to researchers, principally in CSIRO, the universities and the Bureau of Meteorology, but also in the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, the Materials Research Laboratory in the Defence Science and Technology Office and the State Electricity Commission, Victoria. This amounted to some 50-60 equivalent hours per week. In addition to this, CSIRONET offered the Bureau of Meteorology a significant discount for CYBER 205 processing during January to June, 1986, when the machine was not expected to be fully utilised. This discounted usage amounted to about 10 hours per week.

For the 1986-87 financial year CSIRONET has offered the Bureau of Meteorology an arrangement involving a 30% discount on CYBER 205 processing, which should amount to about 7 machine hours per week.

(9) The eligibility criteria for the grants established by the CSIRO Executive were based on the quality of the research involved and the extent to which the computing required the power of the CYBER 205. This scheme has been discontinued with existing grants ending in January 1987.

All universities were offered the opportunity to buy time on the CYBER 205 under the same conditions as CSIRO divisions. Although little response was received, one university has negotiated an agreement involving a significant amount of CYBER 205 processing.

(10) Of the responses received when CSIRONET advertised, in 1984, for expressions of interest from industry for joint development of super computing applications, only one has developed into a successful arrangement whilst another potential user is still developing suitable software. The agreement involves a South Australian company developing CYBER 205 code for fluid dynamics calculations.

More recently, CSIRONET has contacted a number of companies who expressed interest in the use of the CYBER 205. However delays of 3 to 12 months are to be expected before their CYBER 205 usage becomes significant.

CSIRONET has arranged lectures to special interest groups of the Australian Computer Society and The Australian Mathematical Society as well as visits to government departments to promote the CYBER 205.

During the last six months CSIRO and CSIRONET have explored actively a wide range of possible 205 applications. There have been discussions with the Chairmen of the ARGS, the Tertiary Education Commission and University Vice Chancellors and an expansion in CSIRONET's marketing effort.

(11) CSIRO and overseas experience indicates that there are great difficulties in operating super computers in a total cost recovery mode. It would seem that the more effective course is adoption of a national facility structure, with adequate infrastructure and support and differential charging rates for CSIRO and University users on the one hand and a higher commercial rate for industry users on the other.

In technologically advanced countries, industry has embraced the super computer technology as an invaluable design tool. However, in Australia industry is yet to see its potential. If industry is to make significant use of the CYBER 205 it will need considerable encouragement and expert technical support.