Big deals boost UK's supercomputer presence

Announcements from Cray and IBM signal that the government's plan to improve the UK IT infrastructure may be starting to work.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor
The Hartree Centre in Daresbury is using IBM's Power architecture to develop exaflop-capable applications.
Photo: IBM
Two supercomputer giants have announced substantial new investments in the UK.

Cray is opening up a new research lab in Bristol, while the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre has announced that in collaboration with IBM, NVIDIA and Mellanox it has plans to build the UK's first Power Acceleration and Design Centre (PADC).

Cray said its planned Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) research lab is to be based in Bristol. Cray's aim is to work with new and existing customers on different projects including what the company describes as, "special research and development initiatives, the co-design of customer-specific technology solutions, and collaborative joint research projects".

The research lab will also be Cray's main connection to European development programmes, such as Horizon 2020, an EU Framework Programme for research and innovation, and the FET Flagship Initiatives.

Meanwhile IBM said it will be heping to expand the Hartree Centre in Daresbury with a work focusing on modeling and simulation, big data analytics and cognitive computing research in the UK, the company said.

IBM said that the centre will help in its drive towards developing exascale computing, which is computing using a device capable of executing one exaflop, or one billion, billion calculations per second.

At the same time, IBM said, the aim is to not only to drive performance up but to bring power consumption down at the same time. "Optimising existing applications on Power-based systems can offer businesses significant competitive advantages," IBM said.

The acting director of the Hartree Centre, Dr Peter Allan, said the aim was to use the centre to help, "in delivering solutions to real-world problems". According to Dr Allan the PADC, "will enable UK businesses [to] use modeling and simulation and big data Analytics to develop better products and services that will boost productivity, drive growth and create jobs".

Staff from IBM Research, NVIDIA and Hartree Centre will provide expertise and consultation to help improve performance for the GPU-accelerated OpenPOWER systems, the company said. It will also be supported by other OpenPower partners, including Mellanox, and will host a Power-based system with the Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, consisting of "energy-efficient, high-performance" NVIDIA Tesla GPU accelerators and enabling software, the company said.

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