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University and IBM mark three decades of successful collaboration

Published: 
8 November 2004

The long-standing collaboration between the University of Southampton and IBM, the world's largest IT company, will be celebrated in a high-profile event at the University's Highfield Campus this week (Wednesday 10 November).

The collaboration between the University and IBM UK Laboratories at Hursley Park near Winchester dates back over 20 years. In this time academics at Southampton, which has one of the world's foremost computing departments, have worked on a wide number of innovative projects with IBM, involving initiatives in both research and education.

"Our long-term relationship with IBM is an excellent example of how UK universities can work effectively with business on a global scale," comments Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Wheeler. "Successful collaboration between business and higher education is a key challenge for the future prosperity of the UK economy."

The University's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) has provided the main focus for joint activity with IBM, but many other schools and departments are also involved, including Mathematics, Chemistry, Engineering Sciences, Management, the GeoData Institute, and Information Systems Services. Most recently the collaboration between ECS and the IBM UK Laboratories at Hursley Park has been an important factor in the founding of the Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute, based in ECS, which will be officially launched at the event on Wednesday.

The second main aspect of the event is the launch of the University's new IRIDIS supercomputer, purchased from IBM UK this year, which is based on AMD Opteron microprocessors. The computer, which will support some of the University's biggest e-Science projects, will be officially 'switched on' by the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bill Wakeham, and Graham Spittle, IBM Hursley Laboratory Director and Vice President Business Integration Development.

Throughout the afternoon there will also be demonstrations and displays of some of the research and teaching projects that have been encouraged and facilitated by the collaboration.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bill Wakeham, says: "We are very proud of our relationship with one of the world's leading IT companies. We have for many years had strong ties with IBM's development facility at Hursley and it is good to take the occasion of the launch of the new IBM high performance cluster to celebrate that relationship.

"Increasingly, researchers rely on the speed and accuracy of high performance computer facilities to progress their research in important areas such as bio-medicine and climate modelling. This new capability will increase our raw computing power by 300 per cent in the first instance and by even more in the future.

"Research of this kind is, by its very nature, a costly and time-consuming process to conduct solely through experiment. By using high performance computers such as IRIDIS for computer simulation and calculation we can save valuable time and resources by reducing the need for real experimentation," adds Professor Wakeham.

IRIDIS is part of a £1.2 million project to upgrade the computational research facilities at Southampton. It will be used across the University by researchers from subjects as diverse as archaeology, engineering, medical research and chemistry. Its procurement has been led by Professor Geoffrey Luckhurst from Chemistry and Professor Andy Keane from Engineering Science. Professor Keane is also the Director of Southampton's Regional e-Science Centre, a facility that is supported by engineers from the Hursley Laboratory.

The computer will be unveiled by Professor Bill Wakeham and Graham Spittle, IBM Hursley Laboratory Director on Wednesday 10 November at 3.25pm. Presentations of research projects that will be using the facility will start from 3.00pm.

Notes for editors

  1. Journalists and photographers are invited to attend the event at the University's Highfield Campus. Please contact the Media Relations office for details.
  2. About IRIDIS
    * The University has purchased a high performance cluster of 165 IBM eServer e325 and e326 systems to upgrade its IRIDIS high performance computer facility.
  3. * The facility has 330 AMD Opteron processors, providing peak performance of ~1.5 Teraflops (1.5 Trillion floating point calculations per second).
  4. The selection of AMD Opteron microprocessor-based servers means that in addition to the raw speed improvements in the micro-processor, users will also be able to benefit from the added dimension of the AMD Opteron's 64-bit computing capabilities providing improved scalability of user applications. By December 2004, IRIDIS will double in size, and by 2005, when the final update is complete, it will be one of the most powerful computational research facilities in the UK, with a peak performance in excess of three Teraflops2 .
  5. 3 Teraflops is a processing speed of 3 trillion calculations a second, which is nearly 12,000 times faster than an average desktop computer. Alternatively, it can be expressed as taking a person using a calculator nearly 50,000 years to perform as many calculations as this computer can perform in a single second.
  6. The name Iridis, Latin for "rainbow", and a reference to the Greek Goddess Iris, whose cloak shimmered with coloured lights, was adopted as a reflection of the diversity of the user base for the supercomputer.
  7. About IBM:
    IBM is the world's largest information technology company, with 80 years of leadership in helping businesses innovate. Drawing on resources from across IBM and IBM Business Partners, IBM offers a wide range of services, solutions and technologies that enable customers, large and small, to take full advantage of the new era of e-business. For more information about IBM, visit http://www.ibm.com.
  8. About the University of Southampton:
    The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.

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