Cambridge reveals cloud for universities and SMBs

News 8 May, 2009

The director of Cambridge University's High Performance Computing department today revealed that it will be opening up its technologies to other universities and small businesses.

A new super computer cloud will soon be available to universities and small and medium sized businesses (SMBs).

Cambridge University plans to open up its High Performance Computers (HPC) to both other universities and SMBs to take advantage of the technology, albeit at a cost, according to Paul Calleja, director of High-Performance Computing at theinstitute.

“This is happening already. We have universities interested. We will offer this to SMEs within the next quarter but already have interest. I receive three or four enquiries from SMEs a month," he revealed in a Dell round table discussion in London this morning.

Calleja would not divulge which companies had shown interest but told IT PRO sectors included automotive, risk management and pharmaceuticals. He did admit, however, that bringing in the extra revenue in the public sector at this time would be beneficial.

He also said: “We are looking at putting in commercial fibre feeds to allow users to access it without going through the university and we will use multiple 10gb links.”

Cambridge uses Dell hardware to provide these resources to its 300 users within the research community at the university. It replaced its previous Sun system - which Calleja claims was much slower and tmore costly than its Dell replacement.

He stated: “I chose Dell for two reasons, the cost effectiveness, as the company’s business model focuses on taking out cost, and the reliability.”

Figures he presented showed that there had been less than one per cent unscheduled downtime in the past two years, which combined with the scheduled downtime means the system is available 97 per cent of the time.

According to Calleja, average utilisation of the cores comes out at in between 95 and 98 per cent at any individual time and still holds at a solid 87 per cent over a longer window.

Josh Claman, vice president and general manager for Dell in the UK, added: “This level of utilisation is unheard of in your average commercial datacenter. 40 per cent utilisation is considered good in commercial areas.”

Calleja confirmed the system will be upgraded in 2011 moving over to blade servers and possibly the introduction of a water cooling system rather than traditional air conditioning.

He said: “With the introduction of blades you double the heat density in the room. Air conditioning just isn’t good enough so when we go to blades we will have to think about this.”