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Fujitsu wins £15m Welsh supercomputer bid

Distributed grid in four years

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Fujitsu has won the bid to power Wales's high-performance computing (HPC) ambitions with a £15m, four-year project to build a supercomputer grid using Primergy Xeon servers and InfiniBand.

The HPC Wales system is a hub-and-spoke design, with two connected hubs at Cardiff and Swansea/Pembroke Dock, connected by Mellanox-supplied InfiniBand and sharing storage in a high-availability set up. We're told these link to six other sites, forming eight linked sites in total, although only four actual (academic) spoke sites are identified: Swansea, Aberystwyth, Bangor and the University of Glamorgan.

The HPC Wales release says there are further links to the University of Wales Alliance of Universities and to business innovation centres. There will be more than 1,400 nodes in total and the total supercomputing capacity is more than 190Tflops. This puts the system, in sheer teraflop terms, in the low 30s in its position in the top 500 world supercomputer list.

Fujitsu's senior man for the UK and Ireland, Roger Gilbert, alluded to this when he said: "What’s key for us is that HPC is no longer all about tera- and petaflop ratings alone, rather it is about what the HPC capability is used to achieve and ultimately what impact it has more directly to society and business.

"We’re confident that our work with HPC Wales will bring significant technology, skills, research, jobs and economic development to the region."

Fujitsu spokesperson Joe Duran said the 1,400 nodes were compute nodes and a job could run across them all using the scheduler in Fujitsu's SynfiniWay middleware, which is said to provide a private enterprise cloud. In practice, though, jobs will surely be given some portion of the 190Tflops according to their needs.

The node sites will mainly use Fujitsu Primergy Xeon servers and Linux or Windows operating systems. The hubs have 4-600 clustered servers, with smaller node server numbers as we radiate outwards through the tiers of spokes.

The design of the grid spreads the nodes across Wales' geography. HPC Wales says the purpose of the supercomputer is to improve Wales' economic development and use of technology. It claims the system will bring in an additional £22.8m to the Welsh economy over the next 10 years, create "400 quality jobs" and help create at least 10 new businesses.

Fujitsu says this is its largest European HPC project and marks its return to UK supercomputing after a 10-year absence. ®

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