STFC ploughs £30m into high performance computing centre with IBM

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has signed a £30m deal with IBM to develop high performance computing (HPC)

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has signed a three-year deal with IBM to develop high performance computing (HPC) in the UK.

The HPC deal could add £25bn to the UK’s economy over the next 10 years.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has invested £30m in the International Centre of Excellence for Computational Science and Engineering (ICE-CSE), in Daresbury, Cheshire. The investment is being used to upgrade STFC’s existing computing infrastructure to host next-generation HPC systems.  

It is expected that, by 2020, supercomputers will be capable of 1 petaflop (one million trillion calculations per second) and will be thousands of times faster than the most powerful systems in use today, said the STFC. 

HPC is intended to enable research and innovation and provide solutions to complex problems, such as finding cures for diseases and improving the prediction of natural disasters.  

The £30m came out of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills' £145m pot to upgrade the UK’s computer and network facilities.

The STFC will use IBM’s BlueGene/Q and iDataplex hardware, which offers a peak performance of 1.4 petaflops. Storage company DDN will also provide 7.2 petabytes of storage.

The systems will help develop the necessary software to run on the next generation of supercomputers.

Professor John Womersley, chief executive at STFC, said the centre would help the UK maintain its position as a global scientific research leader.

“Our collaboration with IBM will allow industries to bring their problems to this centre, and to design, optimise and test new solutions on the UK's largest supercomputer," said Womersley.

“By hosting some of IBM’s most advanced supercomputers, we will develop the urgently needed software applications of the future, and support the economic and societal benefits we all wish to see from our work.”

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said the centre would help the UK become a leader in HPC: “This new cutting-edge research centre will bring together experts from the science and business worlds.”

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