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University of Southampton awarded over 2.2 million to promote high-performance computing

Published: 26 March 2012

The University of Southampton has been awarded over £2.2 million of funding to help promote the use of high-performance computing for academic and industrial research.

The award is part of a total of £3.7 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) given to a consortium of the research intensive universities of Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and University College London, to create and operate a new ‘Centre of Innovation for the Application of High Performance Computing’.

Together, the four universities, collaborating with the e-Science Centre at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories (RAL) near Oxford, form the ‘e-Infrastructure South Consortium’. The creation of this new Centre of Innovation is the consortium’s first major activity since its launch in 2011.

Oz Parchment, Southampton’s Director of Research Computing, says, “ The vast majority of Southampton’s £2.2 million share is being used to upgrade the University’s Iridis3 supercomputer, which was ranked 74 in the world when it was first switched on in 2009. A 12,000 core Intel Westmere based general architecture/x86 based system is now being installed, giving it twice its original performance. Remaining funding will be used to support and run facilities for a year.”

Professor Simon Cox, Associate Dean for Enterprise in Engineering and the Environment, adds, “Not only is this an excellent opportunity to pursue new research challenges, but also we will be using this facility for our extensive consultancy activities with small and large businesses.”

Iridis3 is being upgraded to twice its performance
Supercomputer

The e-Infrastructure South Consortium aims to share computing resources; such as hardware, software applications, support services and skills. By combining efforts, it can offer considerable breadth of resources and computing power, to encourage both academic research between its four institutions and the wider use of high-performance computing (HPC) in industry.

HPC already has a wide-reaching impact in research across a variety of disciplines, in areas such as; climate change, medicine nanotechnologies, the engineering of aircraft and ships, telecommunications and even archaeology. The consortium aims to build on this to stimulate new academic-industrial collaborations.

University of Southampton Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Philip Nelson, comments, “Simulation and computation enabled by high-performance computing are globally recognised as the ‘third pillar’ of modern research practice in both academia and industry. Keeping pace with high-performance computing methods is critical in making sure the UK stays competitive in this field – and the investment in Southampton’s supercomputer upgrade, along with the future activities of the e-Infrastructure South Consortium will substantially contribute to this.”

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills has recognised the importance of HPC to the UK’s economy into the future, with the recent allocation of an additional £165 million in the 2011/12 financial year.

The EPSRC funding will also see the installation of a large novel architecture/GPU system based on 372 NVIDIA Telsa M2090 processors (the second largest of its type in Europe) at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories near Oxford.

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