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Oxford University Invests In efficient new HPC System

The University of Oxford has invested in a new High Performance Computing (HPC) system to support a broad range of research projects across the organisation.

HPC, Big Data managements, storage and analytics provider OCF is designing and integrating the new cluster which will support research across all four Divisions at the University: Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities.

We caught up with Dr Andrew Richards, Head of Advanced Research Computing at Oxford University to learn more about how this project came about and the ways in which it will benefit users.

His responsibility at the educational institution is to ensure that the HPC system is delivered as it should be and is integrated with the rest of the UK and partner universities.

“After seven years of use, our old SGI-based cluster really had come to end of life, it was very power hungry, so we were able to put together a good business case to invest in a new HPC cluster,” Dr Richards explained.

“We can operate the new 5000 core machine for almost exactly the same power requirements as our old 1200 core machine,” he added.

According to Dr Richards, the old system was using vast amounts of power and electricity with very little return, making it too expensive to run.

A much more modern system was required with an increased capacity that wouldn’t use too much power and too many resources.

Value for money was absolutely essential when the procurement process began and Dr Richards told us he was eager to find a supplier that well and truly understood its customers’ needs.

He claims that OCF offered the best proposition, including value for money, a good understanding of what was required and great support.

The HPC expert says that the company were willing to install what the customer wants and needs, rather than what they as a company want to install.

The new HPC system is set to support a large number of people, including researchers at the University and the collaborative projects the organisation is a part of.

Oxford is one of five universities forming the Science Engineering South consortium which works on e-infrastructure, particularly around HPC.

“We also work with commercial companies who can buy time on the machine so the new cluster is supporting a whole host of different research across the region,” Dr Richards explained.

The University of Oxford is official unveiling its new cluster, named Arcus Phase B, today.

Value From The Start

“As a central resource for the entire University, we really see ourselves as the first stepping stone into HPC,” said Dr Richards.

“From PhD students upwards, i.e. people that haven’t used HPC before – are who we really want to engage with. I don’t see our facility as just running a big machine, we’re here to help people do their research.

“That’s our value proposition and one that OCF has really helped us to achieve,” he added.

The new HPC system is set to bring a multitude of benefits for the University, including its ability to handle much larger single jobs.

The OCF solution is also designed to better meet user demands in a much faster time frame.

Oxford is also set to see cost savings as a result of the upgraded systems not using excessive amounts of electricity.