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Boost for supercomputing facilities

A new phase of supercomputing has been launched at the University.

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, announced the next stage of development of two giant computers, HECToR (High-End Computing Terascale Resources) and BlueGene Q, at an event at the University.

The development marks the next chapter in the UK’s supercomputing programme.

Furthering research

The increased computing capacity and performance will help UK researchers work across a spectrum of scientific challenges.

These include forecasting the impact of climate change, the fundamental structure of matter, and fluctuations in ocean currents.

Supercomputing support will also enable projects on the spread of epidemics, the design of new materials, modelling the structure and evolution of the Universe, and development of new drugs.

VIP event

The event at Bush House was attended by the University Principal, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea.

Also in attendance were John Womersley, Chief Executive Officer of the Science and Technology Facilities Council; Dr Ulla Thiel, Vice President of Cray Europe; George Chiu, Advanced High Performance Systems Research Scientist at IBM; and EPSRC Chief Executive Officer Dave Delpy.

We are delighted to host the next generation in supercomputing capability for researchers across the UK.

Professor Sir Timothy O'SheaUniversity Principal

Powerful performance

Both machines are based at the University Advanced Computing Facility (ACF) and are funded by four of the UK Research Councils - the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Science and Technology Facillities Council (STFC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Both the BlueGene/Q and HECToR facilities have approximately the same computational performance - 800 Teraflops (800 million million million million).

Best in UK

HECToR (High-End Computing Terascale Resources) has a memory of 90 Terabytes and is the UK's largest, fastest and most powerful supercomputer.

The facility has been delivered by the HECToR Partners UoE HPCX, NAG, University of Edinburgh, Cray and STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory.

The machine is capable of over 800 million million calculations a second.

Its latest phase of development, phase 3, uses the latest multicore processor architecture, enabling it to double its performance.

Phase 3 has been funded by a £13.9 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Energy efficient

BlueGene/Q is the most energy efficient supercomputer built to date.

It can perform calculations equivalent to 100 laptops, using the same level of electricity used to power a lightbulb.

This year BlueGene/Q will be upgraded to become one of the fastest computers in Europe.

The University of Edinburgh BlueGene/Q computer chip is the result of a knowledge transfer and industrial partnership activity with IBM. It is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council's DiRAC facility.

Funding partners

The HECToR facility is funded by Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

HECToR and BlueGene/Q will each play a significant role in facilitating ground-breaking research across many areas of science, with tremendous benefits for society. We look forward to working with our partner organisations in delivering this computing capability and to seeing the contribution it will make.

Professor Sir Timothy O'SheaUniversity Principal

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