Friday, 20th September 2019
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Empowering researchers to tackle tough challenges

High performance computing (HPC) is now critical to the advanced level of research being conducted in many academic fields. In a 2014 study, a Clemson University team found that locally available HPC resources definitively enhance the technical efficiency of research output at universities in the study of chemistry, civil engineering, physics and history.

One such research institution that is benefitting from ultra-high performance processing power is he University of Southampton, the largest university in the Southeast region of England. According to the UK’s Research Excellent Framework, the school is ranked in the Top 20 in the United Kingdom for average quality of research submitted, 11th for research power and 8th for research intensity. Along with University of Oxford, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, Imperial College London and University College London, the University of Southampton is part of the Science and Engineering South Consortium, the most powerful cluster of research intensive universities in the UK. The Consortium represents more than a quarter of all Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) projects in the country –30% of the UK’s commitment in this area.

In the past ten years, the number of research projects at the University of Southampton requiring HPC resources has quadrupled. During that time, the variety of research projects has also expanded. “More businesses, sports teams and engineers are coming to us for help running aerodynamic and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to test the effectiveness of their vessel designs,” said Dr. Sandy Wright, a Consultant Engineer at the university’s Center for Marine and Industrial Aerodynamics.

Lenovo Will Provide High Performance Computing Power and Storage

Because of the increase in requests for computational power, the University of Southampton is working with high performance compute, storage and data analytics integrator OCF to build the fifth iteration of its “Iridis” compute cluster supercomputer. The new iteration contains over 20,000 Intel Xeon Scalable System cores on Lenovo® ThinkSystem™ SD530 high-density servers. Because the new cluster is capable of generating larger and more complex sets of data, it also requires more storage capacity. Lenovo DSS-G solutions will provide two petabytes of additional storage.

Dr. Oz Parchment, Director of IT at the University of Southampton, explains why they chose a Lenovo solution: “We were particularly impressed with the way the Lenovo solution brought together best-of-breed compute power, storage and networking into one coherent whole,” he said. “It was very clear to us that Lenovo had invested a lot of knowledge and expertise in the design process.”

Enhanced Power Enables Faster, More Complex Research

With the additional computational power, researchers at the university will be able to explore larger and more complex scientific questions. The university’s Computational Biophysics department will be able better fight the rise of antibiotic-resistant, often life-threatening superbugs by increasing their understanding of how cells function. Professor Syma Khalid elaborates: “The latest iteration of Iridis provides us with a much more powerful computational microscope with which to observe the complex mutations and movements of cells in the human body,” she said. “With this enhanced power, we can build a clearer picture of how biological material moves in and out of cells.”

The newly enhanced cluster also provides the advantage of faster computation. It will allow researchers to run models up to 33 percent faster than before. Dr. Wright is looking forward to getting research results faster, and applying the computational power to real-life challenges: “For instance, we can help shipping companies find more hydrodynamically efficient ways of building vessels, which will ultimately enable them to reduce the fuel required to operate their ships and cut emissions of greenhouse gas,” he said.

There are endless ways that this additional computational power at the University of Southampton will help researchers solve complex problems. The results of this research will go a long way, not just in improving efficiency for British businesses, but in improving the quality of life for all.
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