University of Southampton invests £3 million in UK’s most powerful university-owned supercomputer

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LONDON, UK - 30 Jul 2009: World-class research at the University of Southampton is getting a multi-million pound boost with the purchase of a new supercomputer, built using IBM iDataPlex server technology and capable of over 74 trillion calculations per second.  

The new supercomputer, containing more than 2000 Intel Quad Core Processors, will be used by leading-edge researchers across the University to make highly complex computations in fields ranging from cancer research to climate change. It will be the first IBM System iDataPlex in a UK university and one of the 100 most powerful supercomputers in the world (based on the June 2009 Top 500 list at 

“The University of Southampton is one of the UK’s leading research universities and one of the top 100 in the world. To ensure that we remain at the cutting-edge of research, we must invest in the best facilities for our research staff,” comments the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Philip Nelson.“This significant investment will ensure that our researchers have computing facilities to rival the best in the world.”

The computer, which was custom-designed and will be built, rapidly implemented and configured for the University by UK high-performance computer and storage integrator OCF plc (, has a capability equivalent to around 4,000 standard office computers, running simultaneously. 

It will greatly assist the University’s medical researchers. Geneticist Professor Andrew Collins comments: “We need extremely high levels of computing power in our work mapping the disease genes implicated in breast cancer and glaucoma. With the volume of genome data increasing hugely each year, its analysis requires the most highly-sophisticated facilities.” 

One of the key engineering groups using the computer will be the University Technology Centre for Computational Engineering, where director Professor Andy Keane and colleagues will be using its power to improve the design of aero engines and aircraft.

Other major users will be researchers in the University’s Complex Systems Simulation Doctoral Training Centre, which carries out high-quality, sophisticated simulations in research areas such as climate, pharmaceuticals, bioscience, nanoscience, medical and chemical systems, transport, the environment, engineering and computing.

"Using these new facilities we will see simulation modelling used to drive the design of new drugs tested on simulated organisms, to shape our response to climate change, to redesign our transport systems, and even to explore the origins of life on earth. The quality of simulations such as these is becoming crucial in the modern world," says the Centre's director Dr Seth Bullock. 

The University and OCF signed their contract in July 2009.  IBM will receive £1.8m from its sale into OCF.

About the supercomputer

The hardware includes: 

· IBM System x™ iDataPlex™ servers - first public sector use of iDataPlex in the UK.

· The innovative, half-depth form factor reduces the airflow required across the components, lowering the power needed for cooling, whilst providing twice the number of servers in the same space as a standard 42u rack. 

· Rear door of iDataPlex has built-in heat exchanger which uses water to cool the expelled heat before it enters the data centre, making it more environmentally-friendly  to use than standard air conditioning alone. 

· Equivalent of 26 normal racks; 1000 nodes; 2000 processors (4 core CPUs) = 8000 cores; 100 TB storage using IBM DS4700 

· It will use Cluster Resources Adaptive HPC Suite to provide, on demand, a mixed Linux and Windows workload.

About IBM

IBM and the IBM logo, System x and iDataPlex are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both.  Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both.  Other company, product or service names may be trademarks, or service marks of others.

About the University of Southampton

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.    

With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover of more than £370 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.  

The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Web Science Research Initiative, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute

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