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University of Southampton supercomputer to help give unprecedented processing power to business and academics

Published: 3 July 2012

The UK’s most powerful GPU-based supercomputer, “Emerald”, enters into service today, alongside the University of Southampton’s own supercomputer “Iridis 3”. The combination of these two High Performance Computing systems will give businesses and academics unprecedented access to their super-fast processing capability.

Using the newly-available technology researchers will tackle areas ranging from healthcare (Tamiflu and swine flu); astrophysics (real-time pulsar detection application for the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array Project to deploy the world’s most powerful radio telescope) and bioinformatics (analysis and statistical modelling of whole-genome sequencing data). It will also tackle climate change modelling; complex engineering systems; simulating 3G and 4G communications networks and developing new tools for processing and managing medical images.

Both supercomputers will be unveiled at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), which will host and operate Emerald, a GPU system utilising NVIDIA’s Tesla accelerator technology. Iridis 3, hosted by the University of Southampton, was launched in 2010 when it was ranked position 74 in the top 500 supercomputers worldwide. It has a 12,000 core Intel Westmere based general architecture/x86 based system.

Iridis 3 supercomputer

The occasion also marks the official launch of the e-Infrastructure South Consortium which comprises four of the UK’s leading universities – Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and University College London. The Consortium has collaborated with the Department of Scientific Computing at RAL to form the e-infrastructure South Centre for Innovation, which will own and operate both supercomputers. The Consortium will also share access between the partners, providing an infrastructure for the development of data-driven applications, simulation and software as well as training to create the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Both supercomputers have been funded by a £3.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of a £145 million Government investment in e-infrastructure.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts MP said: “These two new supercomputers form part of the Government’s £145 million investment in e-infrastructure and will be invaluable assets to business and universities. They will drive growth and innovation, encourage inward investment in the UK and keep us at the very leading edge of science.”

Dr Oz Parchment, Director of Research Computing at University of Southampton, said: “Staying ahead of the pace in HPC is critical in making sure the UK stays competitive in many areas of academic and industrial research and development - and Southampton's supercomputer will substantially contribute to this.”

Dr Lesley Thompson, Director of EPSRC’s Research Base added: “High performance computers based within the Consortium’s research-intensive universities will enable better training and recruitment of world-class research talent, help develop new research ideas, and speed up the rate at which complex data can be processed. These new supercomputers are crucial to maintaining the UK’s leading science base and underpinning our national competitiveness and economic recovery.”

Professor Simon Cox, Associate Dean for Enterprise in the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Engineering and the Environment added: “Businesses in the Marine, Maritime and Aerospace sector will benefit through our use of these systems in enterprise consulting and research projects and through partnership with local and national SMEs and large corporations.”

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