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UK cluster upgrade turbo charges university's HPC power

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An upgrade of University of Westminster’s previous 32 node High Performance Compute Cluster (HPCC) with a new 96 node HPCC, is providing a threefold increase in its contribution to the UK’s grid computing facility for researchers, according to the National Grid Service  (NGS).

Established in 2004 and now with more than 500 accredited users, the NGS is in use extensively across a wide range of research disciplines such as bioinformatics. Among other projects, researchers from around the UK are accessing the NGS and drawing on its new additional power to more quickly understand how molecules, such as cancer or HIV, interact with each other under certain stimuli. The faster researchers can do this, the more possibilities they can evaluate and the quicker potential life saving treatments can be discovered. The new HPCC solution’s entire design, install and maintenance is provided by OCF, a UK-based HPC integrator. 

The University of Westminster, the first London-based university to be an accredited partner of the NGS, also provides one of only two fully-approved, web-based portal interfaces to the NGS. This makes the grid accessible to all accredited users anywhere in the UK and, as a commonly used and understood interface, makes the grid very accessible to non-computing HPC users, such as biologists.

Professor Stephen Winter, dean of the School of Informatics, The University of Westminster said: ‘The previous 32-node cluster was considered a very useful contribution to the NGS and that has of course now been significantly enhanced by our 96-node upgrade.’

Outside of the NGS environment, University of Westminster is offering private sector companies, such as banks or insurance companies, looking to benefit from the power of HPC, direct usage time and support on its newly upgraded cluster. The graphical interfaces within the Westminster portal are very easy to use, leading to very rapid deployment of applications on the grid.

Professor Winter added: ‘Finance houses are quickly discovering that the quality of their decision making is directly proportional to the amount of computing power they have available to them.’

The High Performance Compute Cluster enhancement consists of IBM x3455 AMD cluster nodes and IBM GPFS (General Parallel File System) a high-performance shared-disk file system that can provide fast, reliable data access from all nodes in a homogenous or heterogeneous cluster.