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Supercomputers to transform science


New insights into the structure of space and time, climate modeling, and the design of novel drugs, are but a few of the many research areas that will be transformed by the installation of three supercomputers at the University of Bristol.

At peak performance the multi-million pound high performance computers (HPCs) will carry out over 13 trillion calculations per second. That is equivalent to the entire population of the world working simultaneously on hand-held calculators for about three hours.

“This initiative puts Bristol at the forefront of high performance computing”, said Professor David May, Head of Computer Science. “The HPC impact will be enormous – right across all disciplines – turning data into knowledge. It will influence both research and teaching. Universities that understand this will be the most competitive in the 21st century”.

The University today announced the award of the contract to install the computers to a consortium led by ClusterVision, working with IBM and ClearSpeed Technology. The largest of the three HPCs will be one of the fastest University research computers in the UK, and is expected to be one of the top 100 computers of its type in the world.

Professor David MayDr David Newbold, physicist, explained how the new HPC cluster will allow the University’s physicists to be amongst the first to examine results from the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle collider which is set to provide new insights into the structure of space and time and the origin of mass.

Professor Paul Valdes, climatologist, said: “This is an incredibly exciting development. These HPCs will allow us to develop a new generation of numerical models that have a much more sophisticated representation of the climate system. This will give everyone much greater confidence in the regional predictions of future climate change.”

Professor Steve Wiggins, Head of Mathematics and a co-instigator of the project, stated that “HPC has ascended to a new level of importance. Any university that aspires to be world-class must have this basic research infrastructure. In future HPC will be an indispensable tool in every good researchers’ toolbox. The University of Bristol is leading the way.”

ClusterVision will supply, deliver, install the hardware and support the three computer clusters which will all run the ClusterVisionOSTM cluster suite of management and monitoring tools. Access to the computers will be available across the University’s dedicated campus research network.

“The solution put forward by ClusterVision, IBM and ClearSpeed was the best overall and in line with the University’s research and development requirements,” said Dr Ian Stewart, who co-ordinated the procurement at Bristol. “In addition to firmly establishing the University as one of the top High Performance Computing centres worldwide, the access to new innovative technology provided by IBM and ClearSpeed will maintain the University’s leading position in delivering groundbreaking research.”

Cherry Lewis | EurekAlert!
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