UK academic supercomputer doubles capability

The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) formally accepted the third and final phase of HPCx, the UK National Academic Supercomputer, on 7 November. When originally commissioned by the UK Research Councils in 2002 it was immediately designated as one of the top 10 largest supercomputers in the world. In 2004, the capability of HPCx to run scientific applications was doubled, and it has now been doubled again, to more than 2500 processors.

HPCx is a tightly coupled high-performance computing system comprising IBM System p575 high-end compute servers, and is used by leading research groups in the UK to study a wide range of computational science and engineering challenges.

Professor Arthur Trew, Director of EPCC at the University of Edinburgh, says 'We believe that the right way to use large machines like HPCx is for ground-breaking calculations and simulations that can't be done on less capable systems. However, for this to work effectively we require the computer to be powerful, scaleable and reliable. Over the past four years, the IBM systems have proved to be all three and we are looking forward to the new opportunities enabled by the latest upgrade.'

HPCx has allowed UK researchers to examine scientific problems in ways previously unavailable. Transport in Biological Cells Scientists from University College London used the HPCx to develop an understanding of the transport of biomolecules like DNA, RNA and polypeptides across protein membrane channels in biological cells. The transport of these systems is of major significance in the research of cell function. This award winning research won the HPC Analytics Challenge Award at Super Computing 2005 and the ISC Life Sciences Award at the International Supercomputer Conference 2006. Other examples include the simulation of the wake around a helicopter rotor, and coastal ocean modelling.

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