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April 04, 2012
March 30 -- The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and IBM have announced a major collaboration that will create one of the world’s foremost centres in software development. This collaboration is a key component, and marks the launch, of the International Centre of Excellence for Computational Science and Engineering (ICE-CSE). Located at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire, the ICE-CSE will establish high performance computing as a highly accessible and invaluable tool to UK industry, accelerating economic growth and helping to rebalance the UK economy.
High performance computing (HPC) has become essential in the modern world, aiding research and innovation, and enabling companies to compete effectively in a global market by providing solutions to extremely complex problems. Breakthroughs in HPC could result in finding cures for serious diseases or significantly improving the prediction of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. It will provide the ability to simulate very complex systems, such as mapping the human brain or modelling the Earth’s climate - the data from which would overwhelm even today’s most powerful supercomputer. By the year 2020, supercomputers are expected to be capable of a million trillion calculations per second and will be thousands of times faster than the most powerful systems in use today.
The IDC Corp report to the European commission in August 2010 estimated that the successful exploitation of HPC could lead to an increase in the European GDP of 2-3% within 10 years. In today’s figures this translates into around £25billion per year in additional revenue to UK Treasury and more than half a million UK based, high value jobs.
The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced its e-infrastructure initiative in October 2011, with £145million funding to create the necessary computer and network facilities for the UK to access this potential benefit. £30m of this was earmarked for HPC at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, located at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus (Daresbury SIC). This was in addition to an earlier government investment of £7.5m into HPC when the creation of an Enterprise Zone at Daresbury SIC was announced. Following a rigorous tender process as a result of these investments, IBM was named as the successful bidder to form a unique research, development and business outreach collaboration with STFC.
Under the initial 3 year agreement, STFC will invest in IBM’s most advanced hardware systems, most notably the BlueGene/Q and iDataplex. With a peak performance of 1.4 petaflops, which is roughly the equivalent of 1,000,000 iPads, the Blue Gene/Q system at Daresbury will be the UK’s most powerful machine by a considerable margin . It is also the most energy efficient supercomputer in the UK, being 8 times more efficient than most supercomputers.
These systems will help the ICE-CSE to develop the necessary software to run on the next generation of supercomputers, thus providing UK academic and industrial communities with the tools they will need to make full use of these systems both now and in the future.
Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive at STFC, said: “The ICE-CSE is a key component of the government’s e-infrastructure initiative. It is also essential to the UK maintaining its position as a major innovative economy and a global scientific research leader. Our collaboration with IBM will allow industries to bring their problems to this centre, and to design, optimise and test new solutions on the UK's largest Supercomputer. We are very excited to be working with IBM, and together we will establish a hub of innovation development to stimulate R&D based investment. By hosting some of IBM’s most advanced supercomputers, we will develop the urgently needed software applications of the future, and support the economic and societal benefits we all wish to see from our work.”
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “This new cutting edge research centre will bring together experts from the science and business worlds. It will be vital in realising the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a world leader in high performance computing and will provide industry and academia with the tools needed to drive growth and innovation. It will also build on the strengths of the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus - which recently became an Enterprise Zone - and shows that our £145 million investment in e-infrastructure is attracting international companies to the UK.”
Stephen Leonard, Chief Executive, IBM UK and Ireland said “The challenge facing many industries is to understand how to use the power of supercomputers. The IBM collaboration with the STFC will give UK industry exceptional access to world class researchers to help unlock the potential of HPC as we look to solve key technical challenges faced by a broad range of sectors. By making HPC easier to use and more directly accessible to these industries, they will become more innovative and competitive. This will drive a rebalancing of the economy and an increase in revenue to the UK Treasury.”
The ICE-CSE will both target the increasingly important area of data-driven science and continue to target software development for both current and future hardware systems, due within 5-10 years and which will require an entirely new software paradigm. STFC is already a world leading provider of the software engineering skills required to exploit the future growth in available computing power and this is a very exciting time to be collaborating in this way.
The investment into the ICE-CSE is being used to upgrade STFC’s existing computing infrastructure to provide the capability to host the next generation of HPC systems which have much higher power densities than existing systems. It will also install an impressive series of internationally competitive computer systems as a software development and demonstration facility, along with a range of advanced visualisation capabilities.
Source: The Science and Technology Facilities Council
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