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Newcastle University installs first University-wide HPC

With a data explosion in every single aspect of science, universities realise the importance of providing the appropriate computational resources to be able to process this data. One university doing just this and paving the way to encourage cross-departmental research, helping it to remain a world-class research institution, is Newcastle University.

So much so, the university has made a £2 million investment to support its research facilities for existing academics and to attract new researchers to the university. OCF was tasked with designing, integrating and configuring the new HPC system, called Rocket.

Speaking about the project, Martin Edney, Faculty IT Manager at Newcastle University told us why Rocket is so important to them as an institution: “Rocket is not just about buying a big computer, it’s about creating a HPC culture and allowing everyone to have access to achieve a better research impact, to generate new knowledge and insight.”

The new 5,000 core system is comprised of Huawei HPC servers, housed in E9000 chassis with 110 CH121v3 nodes and CH122 nodes, including extra-large, large and medium memory nodes that are connected with Mellanox EDR Interconnect. This is supported by DDN EXAScaler® ES7KX® which provides 500 Terabytes (TB) of high speed storage, and by the university’s Research Data Warehouse, which provides two Petabytes (PB) of storage for data at rest.

The centralised HPC system now supports over 200 researchers, academics and students across all departments including medical, neuroscience, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, engineering and computing. Overall, there has been a significant improvement on what was previously achievable with departmental HPC clusters, meaning researchers can now run much larger problems, getting more immediate answers to a range of “what if” scenarios.

Previously, what would take researchers sometimes months, even years to process using a single desktop computer can be run on Rocket as high-volume simulations, generating outcomes in a significantly reduced timeframe, saving valuable time and budget.

For example, assessing the extent of changes in flood simulation can now be simulated in 11 hours rather than 18 days on a desktop computer by using a change quantification algorithm. Brain geometry which used to take the equivalent of 270 people years can now be performed in just a few hours.

Also, drug testing can be done with preliminary ‘in silicon’ research rather than ‘in vitro’, significantly reducing the need for animal research as computational chemistry is used to model and predict compounds which will be effective drugs.

With these types of results, no doubt, Rocket will help the university to remain a leading academic establishment globally, and continue to attract world-class researchers, as well as much needed grants and funding to continue with their research excellence. If you’d like to hear more about our work with Newcastle University, please get in touch with us here.

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