UK to Launch Six Major HPC Centers

By John Russell

March 27, 2017

Six high performance computing centers will be formally launched in the U.K. later this week intended to provide wider access to HPC resources to U.K. industry and academics. This expansion of HPC resources and access to them is being funded with £20 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The EPSRC plays a somewhat similar role in the U.K. to the National Science Foundation role in the U.S.

The centers are located at the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, and Oxford, Loughborough University, and University College London. According to today’s pre-launch announcement, some of the centers will be available free of charge to any EPSRC-supported researcher, and some will give access to UK industry. Some of the infrastructure is in place and has been in use for a while.

“The new centers provide a diversity of computing architectures, which are driven by science needs and are not met by the national facilities or universities. This is because the National HPC Service must meet the needs of the whole U.K. community and so cannot specialize in specific novel architectures or novel requirements,” according to the release.

It’s worth noting the U.K. move to bolster its HPC resources and use in both academia and industry is happening at a time of uncertainty around research funding in the U.S. The move is also occurring as the U.K. prepares to implement Brexit, its withdrawal from the European Union.

Here’s a brief snapshot of the new centers:

  • GW4 Tier-2 HPC Centre for Advanced Architectures. The new service will be the first production system of its kind in the world, and will be named Isambard after Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It will use an ARM processor system to provide access to a wide range of the most promising emerging architectures. Led by: Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, University of Bristol. EPSRC grant: £3,000,000. Partners: Universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, Cray, and Met Office.
  • Peta-5: A National Facility for Petascale Data Intensive Computation and Analytics. This multi-disciplinary facility will provide large-scale data simulation and high performance data analytics designed to enable advances in material science, computational chemistry, computational engineering and health informatics. Led by: Professor Paul Alexander, University of Cambridge. EPSRC grant: £5,000,000. Partners: Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Southampton, Leicester and Bristol, UCL, Imperial College London, DiRAC, King’s College London, and The Alan Turing Institute.
  • Tier-2 Hub in Materials and Molecular Modeling. The facility will be available to members of the Materials and Molecular Modeling (MMM) Hub as well as the wider MMM and Tier-2 communities. It will be called Thomas, after the polymath Thomas Young, and will have applications in energy, healthcare and the environment. Led by: Professor Angelos Michaelides, UCL. EPSRC grant: £4,000,000. Partners: UCL, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, Queen’s University of Belfast, Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Kent and Southampton, and OCF.
  • JADE: Joint Academic Data science Endeavour. The largest GPU facility in the UK, with compute nodes with eight NVIDIA Tesla P100 GPUs tightly-coupled through the high-speed NVlink interconnect, JADE will focus on machine learning and related data science areas, and molecular dynamics. It will have applications in areas such as natural language understanding, autonomous intelligent machines, medical imaging and drug design. Led by: Professor Mike Giles, University of Oxford. EPSRC grant: £3,000,000. Partners: Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Southampton, Sheffield and Bristol, Queen Mary University of London, UCL and King’s College London, and NVIDIA.
  • HPC Midlands Plus. The HPC facility will be based at a new centre of excellence at Loughborough University’s Science and Enterprise Park. It will be used by universities, research organizations and businesses to undertake complex simulations and process vast quantities in fields ranging from engineering, manufacturing, healthcare and energy. Led by: Professor Steven Kenny, Loughborough University. EPSRC grant: £3,200,000. Partners: Loughborough University, Aston University, Universities of Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham and Warwick, and Queen Mary University of London.
  • EPCC Tier-2 HPC Service. The Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) is growing its new industry HPC system, named Cirrus, five times larger to provide a state-of-the-art multi-core HPC service for science and industry. A next generation research data store, dedicated to Tier-2 users, is being installed to allow researchers to store data, share it and move it between different supercomputers. Led by: Professor Mark Parsons, University of Edinburgh. EPSRC grant: £2,400,000. Partners: Universities of Edinburgh, Bristol, Leeds and Strathclyde, and UCL.

The centers will be officially launched on Thursday 30 March at the Thinktank science museum in Birmingham.

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