New supercomputers planned at three UK universities

HPE, SUSE and ARM will build high-performance computing machines in a 'next step' for AI research

Supercomputer

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced today the launch of the Catalyst UK programme, a project which aims to increase the adoption and efficiency of supercomputers in the UK.

The high-performance computing (HPC) programme will see supercomputers running ARM chips and SUSE open source software built at Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Bristol, and the University of Leicester.

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In total, the three supercomputer sites will consist of HPE Apollo 70 HPC systems hosting 12,000 cores running on ARM chips, and each site is expected to use 30 KW of power. HPE expects the installation to be complete by summer 2018 and will run it for three years.

Catalyst UK will also provide researchers with training that focuses largely on exascale computers, which are meant to be able to compute a billion calculations per second.

"Today's announcement marks a major step forward in boosting collaboration between the government and business to harness the power of innovation in supercomputing and AI," said Sam Gyimah MP, science minister.

He added that the programme, along with other AI and HPC investments the government is making, has "the potential to increase the UK's competitiveness in emerging industries around the world, grow our economy and create the high value jobs we need to build a Britain fit for the future".

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Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, head of the HPC Research Group at the University of Bristol, said the new HPC machines will help his researchers try to scale across the low latency data communications link InfiniBand , leading to benefits for industrial and academic parties.

"The Catalyst UK initiative will give us the exciting opportunity to explore the potential of Arm-based systems to support a broad spectrum of HPC workflows including simulations of gravitational waves and planet formation, earth observation science models and fundamental particle physics calculations," added Dr. Mark Wilkinson, director of the HPC facility at the University of Leicester.

Marc Waters, HPE's MD for the UK & Ireland, said the programme was a necessary step to improve AI adoption in the UK, saying: "Investment in projects that increase access to the right infrastructure is needed to ensure that the UK has the optimal combination of knowledge, skills, and technology, to realise that ambition."

The economic benefits of supercomputers, through large-scale data analysis, are also a focus for Catalyst UK.

PwC researchers estimate that AI adoption could boost global GDP by 14% come 2030, the equivalent of an additional $15.7 trillion.

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