As a research-intensive institute, the University of Aberdeen heavily relies on High-Performance Computing systems to support its wealth of research. In order to continue its ongoing research, attract new researchers and acquire further funding, they were forced to upgrade their facilities and enlisted OCF to build a new High-Performance Computing system. The resulting product, Maxwell, boasts twenty times more storage space than its previous system.


It’s estimated that approximately only 1 per cent of the Earth’s biodiversity is easily
culturable in a laboratory, which means there is actually very little knowledge on most living organisms on the planet. As researchers pursue the various secrets of Earth’s biodiversity, the need for a powerful High-Performance Computing system became ever more apparent. So, as part of the University’s mission to improve its facilities for both staff and students, it invested in a new supercomputer to power its various research programs, and High-Performance Computing experts OCF delivered.


The supercomputer is named Maxwell after James Clerk Maxwell, a famed Scottish theoretical physicist whose theories and research paved the way for Einstein’s theory of relativity and the study of Quantum Mechanics.

Maxwell comprises four Lenovo ThinkSystem SD530 servers, 40 compute nodes and ThinkParkQ-supported BeeGFS Parallel FileSystem hosted on Lenovo Servers and storage and NVIDIA GPUs. An OpenSource Software Stack and a Remote HPC Admin Managed Service were also provided by OCF.

Maxwell provides a centralised High-Performance Computing system for the entire university and has applications in medicine, biological sciences, engineering, chemistry, maths and computer science. However, perhaps its most prominent use is in supporting groundbreaking research at the University of Aberdeen’s Centre of Genome-Enabled Biology and Medicine (CGEBM).

Using Maxwell, the University’s researchers can study the microbiomes of a vast array of ecosystems, from the human gut to deep-sea sediments, Scottish aquaculture, as well as soil and bioreactors to aid in the production of environmentally friendly and sustainable biofuels.

These findings can provide researchers with new insight into important biological
processes such as antimicrobial drug resistance; pathogen detection, evolution and virulence; mechanisms of drug efficacy and toxicity; development; inflammation; tumorigenesis; nutrition and satiety; and degradation of hydrocarbons.

Dr Elaina Collie-Duguid, CGEBM Manager, said:

  “Genomics is a dynamic discipline that rapidly evolves into new applications and approaches to interrogate complex systems. The new HPC cluster, with its expanded capacity and advanced GPU capabilities, enables us to use new analysis methods and work at a much quicker rate than before. It really is an exciting time for genomics, which is revolutionizing the study of organisms and complex ecosystems to address issues of global importance, and HPC is a critical tool for analysis of these data.”

And it’s not only the University that is reaping the benefits of Maxwell’s processing
power. Scotia Biologics, an Aberdeen-based research company, has been working closely with the CGEBM and is able to generate a more comprehensive dataset using genomics thanks to Maxwell’s speed capacity.

Keith Charlton, the CEO of Scotia Biologics, commented:

     “As part of our drive to introduce new services to offer to the life sciences sector, Scotia is developing phage display library capabilities based around a growing number of animal species. With access to Maxwell, we’ve been able to quickly generate a large volume of data relatively inexpensively whilst significantly advancing our R&D program.”

Article By: Kim Nguyen

Browse more:

Latest case studies and news in the industry


Whatever your query or question, we would love to hear from you. 

Please complete the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.