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HPE’s Cray lands £79m contract for UK’s latest supercomputer

Written by Tue 15 Oct 2019

UK Research and Innovation expects ARCHER2 system to be eleven times as productive as its predecessor

HPE’s Cray has been awarded a £79m contract to supply the hardware for the UK’s next national supercomputer, ARCHER2, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced.

According to the research agency, the 28-petaFLOPS supercomputer will be capable of eleven times the science throughout of its predecessor, ARCHER, which will end operation in February 2020. ARCHER has 118,000 CPU cores within racks of Intel Xeon E5 v2 processors.

ARCHER2 will be located at the University of Edinburgh in the same room as the UK’s current supercomputing beast and is expected to go live in May next year, although it will be stress-tested for 30 days before full service is available to UK scientists and engineers.

In addition to an estimated peak performance of 28 petaFLOPS, the supercomputer will have 5,848 compute nodes. Cray has ditched Intel hardware in favour of AMD’s latest Epyc Rome processors, announced in August this year. Each node will have dual AMD Rome 64 core CPUs at 2.2GHz, making for a total of 748,544 cores and 1.57 petabytes of system memory. Cray’s latest 100Gbps Slingshot technology will take care of networking.

In a post announcing the contract, UKRI said it will reveal more details about the expected disruption caused by ARCHER’s switch-off in the coming months:

“As is to be expected in a large project, at the point of transition from ARCHER to ARCHER2 next year, there is highly likely to be a significant break in service provision during the installation period in Spring 2020 where neither ARCHER nor ARCHER2 will be available for use.”

“The specific details of the level of disruption will become clearer when we have selected the preferred supplier in Autumn 2019. By anticipating this disruption now, we want to ensure that users are given as much notice as possible to plan their work accordingly. Initial estimates suggest that the downtime of the service could be up to 11 weeks in the period February to May 2020.”

“As the project progresses we will be looking to mitigate the impact of service disruption, by looking at where alternative compute capability may be available. At this stage, the exact dates for disruption are still to be confirmed however we will be updating the community with more information when it is available, and regular updates will be issued on the ARCHER website.”

Cray Research was launched by engineer Seymour Cray (nicknamed the “the father of supercomputing”) in 1972, before becoming Cray Inc in 1987. Several of the systems produced by the manufacturer are listed in the TOP500 ranking of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. In May, the supercomputing veteran was snapped up by HPE for $1.3bn.

Written by Tue 15 Oct 2019


cray hpc hpe supercomputer
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