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Supporting scientific research at the Atomic Weapons Establishment

There aren’t many organisations that are able to claim they’ve helped with the support and maintenance of the UK’s Trident missile system, but that’s exactly what OCF has been able to do thanks to a new HPC cluster and separate big data storage system

The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has been synonymous with science, engineering and technology excellence in support of the UK’s nuclear deterrent for more than 60 years. AWE both provides and maintains warheads for the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The team here at OCF worked with AWE to help with the design, build and testing of a new HPC system, built on IBM’s POWER8 architecture and a separate parallel file system built on IBM Spectrum Scale.

The work of AWE is of national importance and so its team of scientists need complete faith and trust in the HPC and big data systems in use behind the scenes, and the people deploying the technology; OCF.

AWE relies on cutting edge science and computational methodologies to verify the safety and effectiveness of the warhead stockpile without the need to conduct live testing. The HPC system is a vital part of this testing and, in early benchmarking, the parallel file system was operating 10 times faster than the previous storage system at AWE.

Paul Tomlinson, HPC Operations at AWE told me: “Our work to maintain and support the Trident missile system is undertaken without actual nuclear testing, which has been the case ever since the UK became a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; this creates extraordinary scientific challenges – something we’re tackling head on with OCF.”

Through our partnership with IBM, and having the people, skills and expertise in our own team, we have been able to deliver a system which will enable AWE to continue its vital research – this encompasses the initial concept, assessment and design of the nuclear warheads, through component manufacture and assembly, in-service support, decommissioning and then disposal.

Although these specific challenges are unique to AWE, we specialise in supporting the significant big data challenges of private and public organisations across automotive, aerospace, financial, manufacturing, media, oil & gas, pharmaceutical and utilities industries. If you’d like to know more about the HPC and storage systems we provide, please get in touch or leave a comment below.


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    OCF plc
    Unit 5 Rotunda, Business Centre,
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    Tel: +44 (0)114 257 2200
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