UK universities launch Sulis, a £3M system focused on ensemble calculations





HPC Midlands+, a Tier 2 data center funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is delivering a new supercomputer for the Midlands Innovation university consortium. The new system, named Sulis after a Celtic deity, is capable of about 1.8 peak petaflops of computing power and is based at the University of Warwick.

Sulis, provided by OCF, consists of 167 dual-CPU Dell PowerEdge R6525 compute nodes equipped with AMD Epyc 7742 processors and 512 GB DDR4 memory, plus 30 Dell PowerEdge R7525 GPU nodes each boasting a trio of Nvidia A100 (40 GB ) GPUs. The system uses Mellanox InfiniBand HDR100 networks and is accompanied by 2 PB IBM Spectrum Scale storage (200 TB solid state, 1.8 PB hard drive). Sulis replaces the Athena cluster and, the administrators say, now forms the largest system of its kind in the Midlands region of the UK. Sulis is housed in a new energy efficient data center at the University of Warwick and has a PUE of 1.12.

One of the GPU servers in Sulis. Image courtesy of the University of Warwick.

The system is specifically aimed at enabling the exploitation of parallelism – and in particular high-throughput computing – for ensemble workflows. These workflows are important to the members of the university consortium, including the universities of Aston, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Queen Mary University of London and Warwick.

“Sulis is an HPC service developed with strong leadership from the HPC Midlands+ user community,” explains David Quigley, professor of physics at Warwick and project lead at HPC Midlands+. “Many of our research activities are based on relatively modest simulations that we have to repeat many thousands of times with different inputs. This helps us make predictions based on large amounts of data, understand how sensitive our models are to their inputs, and then quantify the robustness of our predictions.”

“This is great news,” added Andrew Morris, a professor at the University of Birmingham’s School of Materials. “We’ve been needing a dedicated high-throughput supercomputer in the UK for some time now. As with weather forecasting, where you run the forecast hundreds of times to find the percentage probability of rain, the same approach is required for a host of other scientific problems. We are delighted that, as part of the HPC Midlands+ consortium, we can deliver this exciting new supercomputer to EPSRC-funded researchers across the UK.”

The University of Warwick also shot a time-lapse video of Sulis’ installation over the course of several weeks. Go to the university page here to view the timelapse. More information about Sulis can also be found here.

Header image: The Sulis data center. Image courtesy of the University of Warwick.




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