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Oxford scientists get £3m supercomputing boost

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Oxford Supercomputing Centre (OSC) has opened a £3m facility to provide university researchers with access to three new high-performance computing systems.

OSC first formed in 1997 and has been through several generations of high-end computer systems. The latest upgrade increases the computational power available to users by a factor of 15, with further expansions planned for the next two years.

At the heart of the centre are three new supercomputing systems, which are being put to work on a vast range of problems, including nanotechnology, climate change, drug discovery, social deprivation and galaxy formation.

The three systems are housed in a new, dedicated data centre at Begbroke Science Park, which was opened by Dr John Hood, the university's vice chancellor.

Centre manager Jon Lockley said: ‘Together the computational power of these machines is amazing - equal to each of the 6.6 billion people on the planet doing more than 1,500 calculations per second.’

Lockley added: ‘The benefits that the new systems offer researchers can't be understated. In some cases it means that rather than a user waiting a month for an experiment to finish they are now getting the results back the next morning. If you're a researcher working on a two- or three-year project, such a step change in performance means you can work in an entirely different way and achieve so much more in that time. It also means that researchers with computational problems thatwould previously have been considered impractical to even begin to tackle can now be addressed.’

‘Computation is one of the key pillars of scientific research’, said Professor Ewan McKendrick, the pro vice chancellor of research at the university. ‘Oxford is one of the leading research universities and we believe the new OSC facility is a key principal component in the research infrastructure of the university – but it’s not just about the computers, the OSC will provide applications development support and training for researchers to ensure we as a university are developing the computational skills required.’