Welsh HPC grid project signs £15m deal with Fujitsu

Welsh HPC grid project signs £15m deal with Fujitsu

Summary: The Japanese tech giant will provide hardware, software and consultancy to the £40m effort to build a supercomputing grid for businesses and universities in Wales

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HPC Wales has signed a £15m deal with Fujitsu to provide IT hardware, software and consultancy for a Welsh distributed supercomputing grid.

Cardiff welsh Assembly

HPC Wales has signed a £15m IT deal with Fujitsu to support a Welsh supercomputing grid based in Cardiff (above) and Pembroke Dock. Photo credit: Stuart Buchanan on Flickr

The four-year contract, announced on Tuesday, makes Fujitsu the primary contractor for the HPC Wales project. The project, unveiled in July with a £40m budget, aims to create two major high-performance computing (HPC) hubs in Wales, along with multiple subsidiary computing sites across the country.

"It's an ambitious project, because effectively we're putting HPC in a number of sites across Wales. We're obviously putting most of the infrastructure into the Cardiff and Swansea hubs, but we are distributing the network across Wales," said David Craddock, the acting chief executive of HPC Wales.

The project seeks to make HPC services easier to access for businesses and universities across the country, he added.

"One of the biggest challenges in HPC is to get new users. There are a lot of researchers in universities and businesses that are interested in HPC, but they've not had training and are unfamiliar with it," Craddock said.

The HPC hardware for the project is scheduled to be refreshed in 2012, which means "there's also an opportunity for [Fujitsu] to gain further business with new technology that is coming out into the market in 2012," he said.

It's an ambitious project, because effectively we're putting HPC in a number of sites across Wales.

– David Craddock, HPC Wales

Factoring VAT into the £15m contract gives an outlay of £18m to Fujitsu from the £40m total budget for HPC Wales. The amount of the deal could go as high as £24m if the company successfully wins the refresh contract as well, Duran said.

A separate £2m contract covers connectivity for the overall HPC Wales network and how it connects to Janet, the UK's shared academic computing network. That contract was awarded on Friday to Logicalis and the Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA) network, Craddock said.

Fujitsu said it will provide the technology underpinning the distributed grid service, as well as the management portal for it. "We're also providing the consultancy, the migration and the research collaborations to port scientific applications code onto this new service," said Joe Duran, head of Fujitsu's enterprise portfolio.

The company said £10m of the £15m deal is earmarked for IT hardware, with the rest to go on secondary services.

Some existing hardware at Cardiff and Swansea Universities is being used for the project, Craddock said, and Fujitsu will work to integrate that with its own kit.

'Largest' HPC project in Europe

The Japanese technology giant describes the effort as its largest HPC project in Europe. Once completed, the HPC Wales project will hold an aggregate of 190 teraflops of computing capacity across 1,400 nodes, with the amount of processing capacity concentrated in the main two hubs and occurring incrementally elsewhere.

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However, unless an application is programmed carefully, it will not be possible to achieve a dedicated processing capacity of 190 teraflops for any single program, according to Duran.

Fujitsu hopes to deliver the bulk of the HPC kit within the first two years. The hardware will primarily consist of x86 Xeon-based blade architectures with InfiniBand and Ethernet networking. The HPC middleware will come from Platform Computing and Microsoft HPC Cluster Technology, along with SynfiniWay, a Fujitsu product that abstracts and provides management for resources.

The project is expected to lead to the creation of over 400 jobs involving use of the HPC grid technology, according to Fujitsu.

"[HPC Wales] will have a significant impact on the economy, on research, on driving innovation and competitiveness and high-level skills development," Lesley Griffiths, deputy minister for science, innovation and skills for the Welsh Assembly Government, said in a statement.

[HPC Wales] will have a significant impact on the economy, on research, on driving innovation and competitiveness and high-level skills development.

– Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Assembly

The two hubs for the distributed grid will be Cardiff and Pembroke Dock. Originally, Swansea was meant to be the second hub alongside Cardiff, but HPC Wales shifted the site. Swansea already operates a business incubation facility at Pembroke Dock, and it turned out to be well suited to the HPC infrastructure that Fujitsu is procuring, prompting Swansea University to move the hub there.

"There was a balance made between preparation of the site at Swansea and the cost of extending the link out to the service in Pembroke Dock," Duran said.

HPC Wales is funded by a variety of sources, with the two main donors being the EU's European Regional Development Fund and the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.


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Topic: Networking

Jack Clark

About Jack Clark

Currently a reporter for ZDNet UK, I previously worked as a technology researcher and reporter for a London-based news agency.

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