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Cambridge U Deploys UK's Fastest Academic-Based Supercomputer

The University of Cambridge in England has deployed the fastest academic-based supercomputer in the United Kingdom as part of the new Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Open Architecture Lab, a multinational organization that is building the world's largest radio telescope.

The university built the new supercomputer, named Wilkes, in partnership with Dell, NVIDIA, and Mellanox. The system consists of 128 Dell T620 servers and 256 NVIDIA K20 GPUs (graphics processing units) connected by 256 Mellanox Connect IB cards. The system has a computational performance of 240 teraFLOPS (floating-point operations per second) and ranked 166th on the November 2013 Top500 list of supercomputers.

The Wilkes system also has a performance of 3,631 megaFLOPS per watt and ranked second in the November 2013 Green500 list that ranks supercomputers by energy efficiency. According to the university, this extreme energy efficiency is the result of the very high performance per watt provided by the NVIDIA K20 GPUs and the energy efficiency of the Dell T620 servers.

The system uses Mellanox's FDR InfiniBand solution as the interconnect. The dual-rail network was built using Mellanox's Connect-IB adapter cards, which provide throughput of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) with a message rate of 137 million messages per second. The system also uses NVIDIA RDMA communication acceleration to significantly increase the systems' parallel efficiency.

The Wilkes supercomputer is partly funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to drive the Square Kilometer Array computing system development in the SKA Open Architecture Lab. According to Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing at Mellanox, the supercomputer will "enable fundamental advances in many areas of astrophysics and cosmology."

The Cambridge High Performance Computing Service (HPCS) is home to another supercomputer, named Darwin, which ranked 234th on the November 2013 Top500 list of supercomputers.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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