UK researchers primed to build next-generation supercomputer

By Gareth Morgan
21 Sep 2011 View Comments
High-performance computer

The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is set to invest up to £16m to create a new supercomputer, based on the principles of so-called exascale computing.

The STFC, one of seven UK research councils, is charged with ensuring that the UK can play a leading role in scientific research, with a specific focus on areas such as atomic and molecular physics, computational chemistry and bioscience.

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It already works with experts in high-performance computing (HPC) in developing software capable of running on petascale supercomputers. But it wants its new system to be built on technologies that can reach exascale levels.

To put those performance levels into perspective, the latest measurements of the world’s fastest computers put Japan’s K Computer top. It achieved 8.2 quadrillion floating-point operations per second – or 8.2 petaflops.

The new STFC system, which will consist of a minimum of 2,048 x86 cores, will not reach anything like such speeds. But STFC hopes that the work undertaken on the system will help advance the use of HPC within academic research.

The contract for building the system is expected to be finalised by March 2012.

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