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UCL preps clustered Dell supercomputer

Putting those teraflops to work

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UCL is to install a Dell supercomputer, called Legion, to boost the university's number crunching power to an expected peak performance of 42.9 TeraFlops (TF).

As well as supplying the kit, Dell has signed off plans to collaborate with UCL on various research projects.

When it comes to supercomputers, we know you like the stats, so here they are. The new supercomputer, complete with the seven kilometres of cabling used in its construction will weigh 21 metric tonnes when it is built. Once operational, it'll plough through 19,000 litres of air per second.

But what of the spec? Well, UCL says it will install a main distributed memory HPC (High Performance Computing) cluster consisting of 2560 processor cores based on Intel Dual-core technology, an SMP cluster comprising 96 processor cores and 192TB high-performance storage.

The main cluster will be configured as 10 inter-connected computational units. UCL says this will allow it to "tackle ever more complex problems, carry out more detailed analysis and address larger computational challenges".

The project has been funded by a £3.85m grant from the Science Research Infrastructure Fund (SRIF).

The number crunching power will be deployed on some of the meatier research problems the university is tackling. UCL officials say the machine will be put to use on problems of "unprecedented size and complexity".

UCL says its chemists will use the computer to run fluid simulations, and patient specific data to model blood flow through the brains of stroke victims, while the department of physiology plans to use the computer to simulate nerve activity in the brain.

Meanwhile, the university's astronomers will put Legion to work building a virtual universe to model cold dark matter structure formation, with a view to gaining insights into the origin and formation of galaxies, and maybe even gravity itself.

Professor David Price, executive dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and chair of the UCL Research Computing Sub-Committee, said Legion signalled a more democratic age in supercomputing.

"High-end supercomputing used to be the preserve of an elite few in the academic world, but not anymore. It is our goal to create a central HPC resource from which our 16,000 researchers across all disciplines at UCL can benefit, especially in the Biomedical Science area where we are seeing increasing uptake.  Research Computing is now firmly embedded in UCL's overall information strategy," he said in a statement. ®

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