EPSRC provides £20million for high performance computing

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The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is providing £20million to fund establishment or expansion of six high performance computing (HPC) centres. The investment is intended to provide academics and industry with access to support research in engineering and the physical sciences.

EPSRC chief executive Professor Philip Nelson said: “These centres will enable new discoveries, drive innovation and allow new insights into today’s scientific challenges. They are important because they address an existing gulf in capability between local university systems and the UK National Supercomputing Service ARCHER. Many universities are involved in the six new centres and these will give more researchers easy access to HPC.”

Research at the centres – at Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Oxford, Loughborough and UCL – will pursue a range of activities, including the exploration of new materials for energy generation and storage.

Receiving £3m is the GW4 alliance, in which Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter have linked with the Met Office and Cray to design and build the Isambard system, said to be the first large scale ARM based supercomputer.

According toProfessor Simon McIntosh-Smith from the University of Bristol: “Because ARM’s HPC designs are relatively recent developments, there has been no large scale production supercomputer based on the ARM architecture yet. This makes it difficult for supercomputer users and vendors to know how well the various ARM based server chips from manufacturers like Cavium, Qualcomm, Applied Micro, AMD and others will perform on real scientific workloads.”

Isambard will include more than 10,000 ARM cores, as well as a small number of other processors, including Intel’s Xeon Phi and NVIDIA’s Pascal based P100 Tesla CPUs.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre is being funded to expand Cirrus, its HPC system, by five times. A next generation research data store is also being installed.

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