The UK has been lacking when it comes to having access to dedicated high-throughput supercomputers. To fill this void, OCF has provided the University of Warwick and the surrounding higher education institutions with Sulis. This state-of-the-art system prioritises throughput computing and allows researchers to process numerous, long-term tasks at a much quicker rate than before, allowing the UK Midlands the chance to become a leader in sustainable, world-class research.
Solving certain scientific problems requires a computer capable of running multiple predictions and simulations hundreds or thousands of times with numerous slight variations in inputs. On a single PC, these calculations would end up taking decades. Even using university-level facilities, the calculations could still take months. A supercomputer capable of effectively handling these kinds of computations in an appropriate time frame is something the UK has been lacking. Especially as most High-Performance Computing systems are better suited to dealing with a smaller number of large calculations rather than the inverse.
With funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, High-
Performance Computing experts OCF were able to develop and install a new supercomputer, Sulis, that would be able to bring that processing time down to under a week.
Named after the Celtic Goddess of Healing and Sacred Waters, Sulis is the first
computer of its kind in the UK and the largest High-Performance Computing system in the Midlands.
Based at the University of Warwick, Sulis is comprised of 25,728 AMD Epyc computing cores and 90 NVIDIA A100 GPUs equivalent to 1.8 double-precision PFLOPS of computing power, consisting of several compute nodes, GPU nodes, High Memory nodes, connected via Mellanox ConnectX-6 HDR100 Infiniband. The system also has 2PB of IBM Spectrum Scale filesystem, provided by both SSDs and hard disk.
Despite this mass of raw power, Sulis is incredibly energy efficient, operating at a Power Usage Effectiveness of 1.12. The PUE accounts for how much energy used by the computer data centre is delivered to the computing equipment itself, with the average being 1.57 and the ideal being 1. Its energy efficiency increases further in the winter months when the water coolant system is cooled purely by exposure of the what exchanger to the outside temperature.
With its focus on exploiting parallelism for ensemble workflows, the high-performance computing system now creates opportunities for a host of ground-breaking research within a range of disciplines, with chemists, material physicists and astronomers among the most likely to benefit from the facility. In fact, access to parallel computing equipment is now available to higher education researchers on a never before seen level.
Speaking to the possibilities that Sulis offers, Dr Dmitry Nerukh of the University of Aston said:
“We perform unique large-scale molecular dynamics simulations of the entire virus at atomistic resolution that includes all constituents of the virus in solution: the protein shell, the DNA/RNA genome, as well as all water molecules, ions and other small molecules present in the virus’ environment; this is only possible using state-of-the-art supercomputers like Sulis.”
Article By: Kim Nguyen
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