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New University of Edinburgh Supercomputer to be Among UK’s Biggest

Michael Behr

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Edinburgh University
The new machine is the same model as Europe’s current most powerful supercomputer.

The University of Edinburgh has awarded a contract for a new supercomputer to form part of the DiRAC high performance computing facility.

French IT services company, Atos, will provide one of its BullSequana XH2000 supercomputers. The company said the supercomputer is the largest system dedicated to GPU (graphics processing unit) computing deployed at a customer site in the UK.

DiRAC (Distributed Research Utilising Advanced Computing) is distributed across the Universities of Edinburgh, Cambridge, Durham and Leicester, and supports research in particle physics, astrophysics, nuclear physics and cosmology.

The new agreement is part of a £20-million investment to upgrade the DiRAC facility. The funds come from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) World Class Laboratories scheme, through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

According to the university, the investment will help deliver new systems that are up to four times more powerful than the existing DiRAC machines. This will help enhance the facilities scaling service and provide computing capacity that can also be used to address immediate and emerging issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Project lead Luigi Del Debbio, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We are delighted that the delivery of this state-of-the-art supercomputing system will allow our scientific community in the fields of particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and nuclear physics to pursue cutting edge research on a broad range of topics.”

The BullSequanaX XH2000 will be able to handle converged workloads – including HPC simulation, artificial intelligence and deep learning – on a single system to explore new applications. Atos said it is up to four time more powerful than the existing DiRAC machines.

A version of the same model, named JUWELS, was installed at the Jülich Research Centre in Germany in 2018. In late 2020, it became the seventh most powerful supercomputer in the world, and the most powerful in Europe, after reaching a peak of 44.1 petaflops.


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The supercomputer will use NVIDIA Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and AMD processors. In addition, its energy efficient design is 100% water-cooled, using Atos’ DLC (Direct Liquid Cooling) solution, which minimises global energy consumption by using warm water up to 40°C.

Atos Senior Vice-President, Head of HPC & Quantum, Agnès Boudot said: “We are pleased to be partnering with the University of Edinburgh and the DiRAC community to provide a high-performance computing platform to support their world-class science programme.

“Our BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer will use both CPUs and GPUs and has been configured to meet the extreme scaling requirements of their scientists. This agreement continues to demonstrate our strategic commitment to design and build powerful and innovative supercomputers as we fast approach the exascale era.”

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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