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The University of Southampton

Southampton's world-class supercomputer opens Windows

Published: 18 November 2009

The University of Southampton's new supercomputer, which has the power of over 4000 PCs, is named as the fastest Microsoft Windows-powered computer in all of Europe.

The Southampton computer is ranked 74th in the world this week in the Top 500 Supercomputer list, and the fastest University-owned supercomputer in England.

The Windows HPC (High Performance Computing) Server 2008 R2 software it runs has been developed for the upcoming generation of users who want to access the power of supercomputing from their desktops.

Professor Simon Cox, Director of the Microsoft Institute for High Performance Computing at Southampton, explains, "HPC has traditionally been focused around specialist users who had to understand the details of how a supercomputer worked. We are interested in making this advanced capability available to every researcher from their desktop, without the need for specialist IT skills. Using the familiar Windows desktop environment, they are able to carry out extremely large calculations that were previously inaccessible, due to the complexity of more traditional HPC systems."

Professor Cox and his colleagues at Southampton have worked with Microsoft and Microsoft Research for over a decade to bring HPC to Windows. The Institute continues to work on applying the full spectrum of Microsoft technologies to make scientists and engineers more productive.

Dr Oz Parchment, the University of Southampton's IT Infrastructure Services Manager, adds, "The University has invested £3million in this project. Our aim is to make supercomputing available to everyone on campus, and this means making it easier to use. We look forward to bringing even more new research domains into the world of HPC to solve problems that they have previously been unable to tackle. The system is helping existing users focus more on their research, without having to worry about the underlying IT."

"Windows HPC server is enabling scientists and engineers around the world to tackle challenging research problems," says Vince Mendillo, Senior Director of High Performance Computing at Microsoft. "We are very excited about the tremendous work the team at the University of Southampton has been doing to bringing supercomputing to the masses."

The University of Southampton system is being used on a wide range of projects, from designing quieter, cleaner aircraft, and advanced wind turbines, to drug discovery, tackling climate change, finding the origins of the universe, understanding new communication technologies and developing the next generation of nanotechnology.

New areas being enabled by Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 include work by the Southampton Social Statistics Research Institute, computational economics, game theory and archaeological simulations.

Looking ahead to the advances in research that the supercomputer will facilitate at Southampton, the University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Philip Nelson, says, "Computer simulation is a key tool for research, and by making it more accessible we will be better able to address more and increasingly complex problems, faster than ever before."

Notes for editors

  • The Microsoft Institute for High Performance Computing was created in November 2005 at the University of Southampton. Led by Professor Simon Cox and Dr Kenji Takeda in the School of Engineering Sciences, the Institute pushes state-of-the-art technologies to tackle real-world scientific and engineering problems. World-class researchers in the School of Engineering Sciences work closely with industrial partners that span the aerospace, automotive, bioengineering, marine and telecommunications sectors.

  • Supercomputing 2009 is the premier international conference on high performance computing, networking and storage, and runs from 14 to 20 November in Portland, Oregon. The 34th Top 500 Supercomputers list is announced on 17 November.

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