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Cambridge claims ‘greenest’ supercomputer, honours pioneer

A supercomputer developed by the University of Cambridge's High Performance Computing Service (HPCS) is being named Wilkes, honouring Cambridge computing pioneer Maurice Wilkes. He was the man behind EDSAC, the first programmable computer to come into general use.

Designed and built by HPCS, Wilkes boasts an energy efficiency of 3361MFLOPS/W, making it one of the 'greenest' of its kind. Dr Paul Calleja, director of the HPCS, said: "Energy efficiency is the biggest single challenge in supercomputing today and our new system makes an important step forward in this regard."

The Dell based system uses NVIDIA gpus and, as such, is also the UK's fastest gpu supercomputer, with a sustained performance of 250TFLOPS; equivalent to 4000 desktop machines running as a single system.

The gpu system, which has been designed to be as scalable as possible, uses an Infiniband network from Mellanox which provides a system bandwidth of 100Gbyte/s and the ability to pass more than 137million messages per second.

One of the primary uses of Wilkes is as a test bed for the development of a computing platform for the Square Kilometre Array. This element of the project is being led by Cambridge and Wilkes is set to play an integral role in this process.

Graham Pitcher

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