UK supercomputer to help unlock secrets of the Universe

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Atos has announced it has been awarded a contract to deliver a system based on the BullSequana XH2000, for the UK’s DiRAC HPC Facility. This will be the largest Atos system dedicated to GPU computing deployed in the UK.

The new system will be used for the Extreme Scaling Service of the UK’s DiRAC HPC Facility. The state-of-the-art platform will allow scientists across the STFC theory community to accelerate research in particle physics, among other areas, using NVIDIA GPUs and AMD processors.

Professor Mark Wilkinson, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Leicester and director of the DiRAC Facility, said: ‘It is fantastic that Atos has been successful in the DiRAC-3 procurement at Edinburgh and will become a valued partner of the DiRAC community. As well as delivering a highly capable solution, we are talking to Atos about the additional value they will bring in terms of industry collaboration and opportunities to enhance the training of our students to prepare them for careers in both academia and industry.’

This new machine represents a major boost to DiRAC’s computing capacity, significantly increasing the power of the Extreme Scaling service. DiRAC is a distributed facility with high performance computing resources hosted by the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Durham and Leicester. These systems support fundamental research in particle physics, astrophysics, nuclear physics and cosmology.

This agreement forms part of a £20 million investment by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) World Class Laboratories scheme, through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), to fund an upgrade of the DiRAC facility. The investment is delivering new systems which are up to four times more powerful than the existing DiRAC machines, providing computing capacity that can also be used to address immediate and emerging issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The upgraded DiRAC-3 facility will also be much more energy-efficient than previous generations.

Agnès Boudot, Senior vice president, head of HPC and quantum at Atos, said: ‘We are pleased to be partnering with the University of Edinburgh and the DiRAC community to provide a high-performance computing platform to support their world-class science programme. Our BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer will use both CPUs and GPUs and has been configured to meet the Extreme Scaling requirements of their scientists. This agreement continues to demonstrate our strategic commitment to design and build powerful and innovative supercomputers as we fast approach the exascale era.’

The new BullSequana XH2000 will be able to handle converged workloads simultaneously (HPC simulation, Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning) on one single system, and therefore enable DiRAC to overcome the limits of traditional computing simulation and explore new applications and innovation. With cutting-edge networking standards and the latest processing components, it provides extreme power, speed and accuracy. It consumes less energy than current systems as it is 100 per cent water-cooled using Atos’ patented DLC (Direct Liquid Cooling) solution, which minimises global energy consumption by using warm water up to 40°C.

Professor Luigi Del Debbio, professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Edinburgh and project lead for the DiRAC-3 procurement at Edinburgh commented: ‘We are delighted that the delivery of this state-of-the-art supercomputing system will allow our scientific community in the fields of particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and nuclear physics to pursue cutting-edge research on a broad range of topics. Atos’ equipment and expertise will bolster our HPC system offering at the upgraded DiRAC-3 facility, strengthening our research activity and supporting the education and training of our students.’

As part of ongoing partnership activities, Atos will also help sponsor one student’s PhD, support a Hackathon and deliver a series of best practice training workshops for scientists.

Atos is committed to supporting closer collaboration between academia and industry through the power of supercomputing and deep learning. In the UK, the company works in partnership with centres of excellence including The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Hartree Centre, Wellcome Genome Campus, the University of Oxford’s JADE service, and The Pirbright Institute, among others.

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