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Industry and academia partner to push UK supercomputer adoption

By Ashton Young
Mon 16 Apr 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today announced a plan of action to accelerate the adoption of supercomputer applications in the UK.

HPE will be collaborating with Arm, SUSE, and three UK universities  to jointly deploy and develop one of the largest Arm-based high performance computing (HPC) installations in the world. The deployment will be available to both industry and academia to build applications that drive economic growth and productivity as outlined in the UK government’s Industrial Strategy.

Designed, built and supported by HPE, the deployment will be spread across three sites at Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Bristol, and the University of Leicester.

The three supercomputer clusters will in total run more than 12,000 ARM-based cores, hosted by HPE Apollo 70 HPC systems. The clusters at each university will be largely identical, consisting of 64 HPE Apollo 70 systems, each equipped with two 32 core Cavium ThunderX2 processors, 128GB of memory composed of 16 DDR4 DIMMs with Mellanox InfiniBand interconnects. The operating system is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for HPC. Each cluster is expected to occupy two computer racks and consume a total of approximately 30KW of power.

The installation is expected to be completed in summer this year and is part of a project known as Catalyst UK which will run for three years.

The Catalyst UK programme is set to cooperate with the UK industry to jointly develop critical applications and workflows to best exploit the Arm system capabilities and further drive supercomputer adoption in the UK. The programme will also provide training for researchers to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully and productively work with Arm-based systems in the future.

Marc Waters, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Hewlett Packard Enterprise said of the programme:

“The UK’s ambitions to become the best place to start and grow a digital business and be a world leader in AI are bold, but achievable. To accelerate AI adoption, 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," says HPE managing director for UK & Ireland Marc Waters.

"At Hewlett Packard Enterprise we’re delighted to be a part of the Catalyst UK programme that aims to widen the access to high-performance computing technologies to ensure British businesses can benefit from the huge potential of AI, now and in the future.”

HPE advanced technologies group VP Mike Vildibill shares these sentiments.

“We are currently seeing an insatiable demand for compute performance, as companies seek to gain intelligent and actionable insights from their data. As we embark on the global race towards more powerful and eventually exascale systems, new approaches and technologies are needed to tackle some of the key challenges in achieving these levels of performance, such as rising energy consumption,” says Vildibill.

“HPE is excited to work with Arm, SUSE, and other key partners to offer the HPC community a fresh alternative for high performance computing which we believe will stimulate the industry to develop increasingly performant and efficient supercomputing solutions.  By investing in this deployment through the Catalyst UK programme, HPE and our partners will drive both digital transformation and sustainable economic growth through new innovation and scientific discovery.”

Supercomputers have grown in prominence in recent years with the huge influx of data, and HPE asserts they have a crucial role to play in digital transformation given their ability to simulate the physical world and generate actionable insights from vast amounts of data.

According to a Hyperion Research estimate, every dollar invested in HPC technology is associated with an average $551 in additional revenue and $52 in added profit for private-sector firms.

“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,” says Sam Gyimah MP, Science Minister.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy, AI Grand Challenge and upcoming Sector Deal, the UK will lead the AI and data revolution. Doing so 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.”

According to HPE, the key focus of the Catalyst UK programme is to highlight the potential of Arm-based HPC installations, including its application in AI which needs to process large amounts of data and requires extremely high memory bandwidth, and exascale computing, which requires HPC systems to be hundreds of times faster and more efficient than today’s fastest supercomputers.

“Arm has a long history of close collaboration with industry and academia that has resulted in some very innovative new ideas and technologies,” says Arm infrastructure business unit senior vice president and general manager Drew Henry.

“We’re particularly excited now to provide UK researchers and many others greater access to Arm high-performance server technology. The unmatched scalability, high performance, and low-energy consumption of these solutions directly addresses the challenges of large-scale computing and will fuel innovation in cloud, HPC, and AI applications.”

SUSE CTO Dr. Thomas Di Giacomo says the open, non-proprietary and highly collaborative approach to the Catalyst UK programme will be a key factor in the project’s success.

“Increasing the exposure of open source operating systems and tools to student and other real-world users and workloads will significantly improve and enhance the software available on Arm-based architectures,” says Dr. Di Giacomo.

“By building a broad ecosystem with HPE, Arm, and Cavium, that caters to the specific needs important to the UK market, we can help deliver the required knowledge, skills and capabilities that will shape the adoption of HPC and AI technologies in the UK.”

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