The University of Bristol has installed a new high performance computing (HPC) system with more than 15,000 cores and a theoretical peak performance of 600 teraflops.

BlueCrystal 4 (BC4) was designed, integrated and configured by HPC specialist OCF. It has been housed in Virtus’ London4 data center in Slough and connected to the university using the Janet network, which connects UK educational institutions via high speed fiber.

Bigger and better

Virtus London4
– Virtus

BC4 uses Lenovo NeXtScale compute nodes, each comprising two 14-core 2.4 GHz Intel Broadwell CPUs with 128 GB of RAM. It also includes 32 nodes with two Nvidia Pascal P100 GPUs each, and one GPU login node, designed into the rack by Lenovo’s engineering team. The company said that it has taken full advantage of the 30kW per rack energy limit. 

The cluster has one petabyte of disk storage provided by DDN’s GS7k and IME systems, running IBM’s parallel file system Spectrum Scale (formerly called GPFS). 

“We have researchers looking at whole-planet modeling with the aim of trying to understand the earth’s climate, climate change and how that’s going to evolve, as well as others looking at rotary blade design for helicopters, the mutation of genes, the spread of disease and where diseases come from,” Dr Christopher Woods, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) research software engineer fellow at the University of Bristol, said.

“Early benchmarking is showing that the new system is three times faster than our previous cluster – research that used to take a month now takes a week, and what took a week now only takes a few hours. That’s a massive improvement that’ll be a great benefit to research at the University.”

More than 1,000 researchers will use the system, for subjects such as paleobiology, earth science, biochemistry, mathematics, physics, molecular modeling, life sciences and aerospace engineering.

Kelly Scott, account director for education at Virtus Data Centres, said: “London4 is specifically designed to have the capacity to host ultra high density infrastructure and high performance computing platforms, so an ideal environment for systems like BC4. The University of Bristol is the 22nd organization to join the JISC Shared Data Centre in our facility, which enables institutions to collaborate and share infrastructure resources to drive real innovation that advances meaningful research.” 

London4 was opened in January 2014 and acquired by Virtus from Infinity in December 2015. It has more than 10,600 sq m (114,097 sq ft) of technical space, 23 MW of IT capacity and a planned design power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.25.