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Photos: Brain of Britain

Supercomputer top of the class at Cardiff Uni
By Nick Heath, Contributor on
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Supercomputer top of the class at Cardiff Uni

The Merlin computing cluster at the Cardiff University is one of the fastest supercomputers in a UK university.

The processing powerhouse at the heart of the High Performance Computing Centre of Excellence has about four million megabytes of memory and 256 standard compute nodes containing 2,048 Intel Xeon 3GHz cores. It been measured as performing 20 trillion operations per second (20 teraflops).

This puts it well inside the top 100 most powerful supercomputers in the world.

It relies on a lustre parallel file system with 38 terabytes fibre-channel disk, and an additional 50 terabytes of Sata disk storage.

The centre, seen here, is run by the university's Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (Arcca).

Photo credit: Cardiff University

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The computer centre network, part of which is seen here, has links running at about 20Gbps with a aggregate bandwidth of 11.52 terabits per second.

Professor Martyn Guest, director of Arcca, said the high performance computer centre would allow a wide variety of studies that would previously have been impossible.

The computing centre is pushing the boundaries of cutting-edge research in areas including health, where it is helping Cardiff University Hospital of Wales' positron emission tomography scanner to detect cancers at a smaller size; geoscience, where it is simulating movements of the earth's crust; astrophysics where it is recreating the formation of stars and planets; archaeology where it's working to pinpoint carbon dating of prehistoric sites; and renewable energy where it is modelling waves.

It also complements work to unlock the secrets of the brain being undertaken by the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre.

Photo credit: Cardiff University

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The number-crunching hub is also one of the greenest of its kind in the UK thanks to its cooling system, seen here.

It is housed in 10 energy-efficient water-cooled racks, saving about £30,000 per year on conventional air systems.

Photo credit: Cardiff University

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When it was launched in June 2008 the computer was one of the first major systems in a UK university to use the Intel Xeon 3GHz quad-core Seaburg processor.

The Merlin computing cluster has been funded by Science Research Investment Funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Photo credit: Cardiff University

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