Scientist to benefit from exascale supercomputer deal

13 June 2013
By Edd Gent
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A collaboration between the STFC and NVIDIA will give researchers access to STFC’s Hartree Centre at Daresbury Laboratory

A collaboration between the STFC and NVIDIA will give researchers access to STFC’s Hartree Centre at Daresbury Laboratory

New supercomputers a thousand times more powerful than any in the UK today will soon be available to British scientists, following the signing of an agreement between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and NVIDIA.

The high-performance computing firm will develop GPU-based supercomputers to provide a step-change for researchers and industry in areas like climate modelling, stress analysis, materials modelling, molecular modelling, and numerical weather simulation.

Working with NVIDIA, the STFC will develop the software necessary to enable the creation of exascale-class supercomputers that will contain hundreds of thousands of graphics processing units (GPUs) capable of performing a million trillion calculations per second.

David Corney, acting director of STFC’s Department of Scientific Computing, says: “This agreement combines NVIDIA’s leading-edge GPU accelerator technologies and High Performance Computing (HPC) expertise with STFC’s software development expertise.

“This unique combination will enable the development of next-generation massively parallel applications, which will be used for exascale performance levels, or a thousand times more powerful than Blue Joule at STFC, the most powerful computer in the UK today.”

The collaboration will offer scientists access to one of the largest software development laboratories in the world, STFC’s Hartree Centre at Daresbury Laboratory, which is dedicated to modelling and simulation software, as well as to NVIDIA’s expertise.

The agreement follows a £37.5m investment in March last year by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in HPC at Daresbury Laboratory as part of its UK e-infrastructure initiative.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, says: "The Government is investing in high performance computing to make the UK the location of choice for high tech research and innovation.

“This partnership will bring together leading researchers and business. It confirms the position of Daresbury and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory as world-class science facilities. It supports our forthcoming Information Economy Industrial Strategy."

Researchers will benefit from the design of new algorithms and approaches to take advantage of future HPC infrastructure, such as future hybrid computing technology, as well as training support for industry and research application developers in the use of parallel computing techniques.

Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive STFC, says: “By bringing together the expertise of STFC and NVIDIA we'll be able to provide significant capabilities to both existing and new partners of both organisations.

“Academia and industry are increasingly making use of HPC and big data to improve the quality of their output, reduce time to value, and make more productive use of their research and development spend.

In the long term, the agreement also hopes to lead to the development of programming models and paradigms for accelerator based systems, applications for future generations of accelerator based systems.

It is hoped this will also lead to the creation of a cadre of experts capable of teaching programming methodologies for these systems to the UK’s future computer scientists.

“Our common goal is to help scientists and engineers develop better software, enabling them to run simulations which have previously been too complex,” says Shanker Trivedi, vice president of Professional Solutions at NVIDIA.

“Working together, STFC and NVIDIA will help researchers accelerate scientific discovery and industrial research in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.”

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