Education IT: Iridis3 supercomputer’s mega upgrade boosts research at University | Mantis Public Relations

Education IT: Iridis3 supercomputer’s mega upgrade boosts research at University

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The University of Southampton is using its share of a substantial £3.7m award given to a new consortium of research-intensive universities by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to upgrade the University’s IBM-based “Iridis3” high performance cluster. High performance data processing, data management and data storage provider OCF, which also designed and built Iridis3 in 2009, handled the upgrade to the cluster.

Iridis3 now has nearly 12,000 cores, using Intel’s Westmere six-core processors, giving it over 1.5x its previous performance. According to the current Top500 rank of the World’s largest supercomputers, Iridis3 remains the largest university-owned supercomputer in the UK.

Iridis3 and other server clusters within the Consortium will support research into over 10 different areas. This will include modeling the Earth’s climate, oceans and atmosphere, and the atmospheres of other planets; human-related research, such as mapping medical conditions in the general populations to catalogues, such as the human genome; and the development of new tools for the processing and management of medical images.

Oz Parchment, director of research computing, University of Southampton says: “OCF has used its integration knowledge, skills, services and relationship with IBM to upgrade our server cluster – procurement, delivery, installation, configuration and go-live – in just one month. That is remarkable.”

The universities of Southampton, Bristol, Oxford and University College London form the ‘e-Infrastructure South Consortium’ which aim to share computing resources such as hardware, software applications, support services and skills. By combining efforts, it can offer considerable breadth of resources and computing power, to encourage both academic research between its four institutions and the wider use of high-performance computing in industry.

“We have been able to upgrade an existing compute facility to provide more processing power, but capitalise on existing racking, power and systems to keep costs down,” says Prof Simon Cox, Associate Dean, Enterprise, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton. “The upgrade principally gives our server cluster greater processing power to accommodate the needs of researchers and our industrial collaborators across the Consortium. We will be able to undertake not only more research but also increase the fidelity of our simulations.”

Andy Grant, IBM UK HPC Sales Lead says: “IBM applauds the University of Southampton and eInfrastructure South Consortium for the innovative way that the Iridis3 cluster has been upgraded, maximising computational performance through re-use of components and by minimising waste. The very tight timescales within which the procurement and installation were carried out made this a very challenging project for all concerned and it is great to see it come to a successful conclusion.”

Originally launched in 2009, Iridis3 was the first UK public sector use of the IBM System x™ iDataPlex™ servers. The innovative, half-depth form factor of the iDataPlex reduces the airflow required across the components, lowering the power needed for cooling, whilst providing twice the number of servers in the same space as a standard 42u rack. The rear door of iDataPlex has a built-in heat exchanger, which uses water to cool the expelled heat before it enters the data centre, making it more environmentally-friendly to use than standard air conditioning alone.

“Julian Fielden, managing director, OCF says: “The University of Southampton and the wider e-Infrastructure South Consortium is making great use of funds available from the EPSRC to upgrade compute facilities and boost research output and use of high performance computing in industry.”

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