Emerald GPU cluster

Universities and business share use of super-fast processing capacity

Four UK universities have joined forces with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to launch a £3.7m supercomputing centre.

The e-Infrastructure South Consortium, which includes the Universities of Oxford, Bristol, and Southampton and University College London, officially launched its Centre for Innovation in High Performance Computing at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory’s Didcot headquarters on 3 July.

Included in the initiative are the supercomputing clusters Emerald – the UK’s most powerful GPU-based system which will be hosted at the Rutherford Laboratory – and Iridis 3 – the latest upgraded iteration of the University of Southampton’s system.

Both systems were funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and form part of the government’s £145m investment in e-infrastructure.

Dr Lesley Thompson, director of EPSRC’s research base said: “High performance computers in the consortium’s research-intensive universities will enable better training and recruitment of world-class research talent, help develop new research ideas and speed up the rate at which complex data can be processed. These new supercomputers are crucial to maintaining the UK’s leading science base and underpinning our national competiveness and economic recovery.”

Emerald is an 84-node cluster equipped with NVIDIA’s Tesla GPUs (graphical processing units) and is capable of running at more than 114 teraflops. Iridis comprises 1008 Compute Nodes with two four-core 2.27GHz Nehalem processors providing over 72 teraflops.

Access to the systems will be shared among consortium partners and used on projects ranging from healthcare and bioinformatics to astrophysics and climate change modelling.

Anne Trefethen, professor of scientific computing, University of Oxford, said: “High set-up costs can be a major barrier to SMEs expanding into bigger markets. This new centre will make it easier for them to step up. In turn, supercomputers will help university-led researchers work with industrial partners.”

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