September 3, 2013

US-UK Supercomputing Centers Join Forces

Tiffany Trader

Officials at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s High Performance Computing Innovation Center (HPCIC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the United Kingdom have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) commemorating their new partnership. The alliance will help industry stakeholders in both countries leverage supercomputing to accelerate innovation and boost economic competitiveness.

According to Donald B. Johnston of LLNL, the mutually-beneficial relationship “provides a vehicle for technical and business development exchanges between the HPCIC and the STFC’s Hartree Centre (HC).”

It’s a natural fit because the HPCIC and the HC share a similar mission, namely making HPC more accessible to industry and academia, solving customer problems and demonstrating a return on investment – and carrying out all these activities as part of a larger push to boost competitiveness and spur economic growth.

The partners have something else in common: they both rely on the IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer as their primary industrial computing resource. At Livermore, HPCIC employs “Vulcan” for collaborative assignments. This five-petaflop IBM Blue Gene/Q (BG/Q) system is ranked number 8 on the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers. The Hartree Center is home to the UK’s most powerful supercomputer, a 1.4-petaflops BG/Q system.

Having a unified architecture will facilitate the software and application development that is central to this collaboration. Initial projects will be centered on the creation of business and industry tools that can leverage the power of the Blue Gene. The BG architecture is especially well-suited to today’s big data applications. These data-intensive workloads are common in fields like cybersecurity, network optimization, atmospheric modeling, bioinformatics and medicine.

The industrial sector generally understands the advantages that HPC offers, but the bar to entry can be high. As organizations that are focused on increasing industry use of HPC, HPCIC and HC are familiar with the sticking points: the high cost of HPC hardware, the limitations of software and the lack of domain expertise. Both groups were established specifically to address these hurdles, to help HPC fulfill its potential across sectors.

The U.S. Department of Energy and The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) in the United Kingdom made the joint announcement last Thursday.

On the occasion of the signing, John Womersley of the United Kingdom’s STFC, remarked, “One of our goals at STFC is to bridge the gap between science and industry. The agreement we’ve signed today will help us to exploit the full potential of high performance computing for the UK – from basic research through R&D to new product design. I am thrilled to be signing this agreement today as it takes significant strides toward translating cutting edge R&D into successful commercial opportunities, and will provide UK businesses and industry with the technology they need to be able to compete on a global scale.”