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DiRAC high performance computing facility to get £20 million upgrade


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has announced a £20 million investment in an upgrade of the DiRAC high performance computing facility.

It said this will produce new systems between three and five times more powerful than the existing DiRAC machines, providing computing capacity that can be used to address immediate and emerging issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

It provides high performance computing systems optimised for the specialist needs of scientists. Its research community has harnessed it observational and experimental data generated by astronomy and particle physics facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider and the LIGO experiment.

DiRAC, established in 2009, is a distributed facility with computing resources hosted by the Universities of Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh and Leicester.  It is overseen by the project office at University College London.

The money to deploy DiRAC-3 is coming from the Government World Class Labs funding scheme, through UK Research and Innovation.

Big benefits

DiRAC director Profession Mark Wilkinson from the University of Leicester said: “Today, high performance computing underpins discoveries in almost all areas of science and innovation. Numerous studies have demonstrated the significant economic benefits of investment in high performance computing and confirmed that ‘to out-compute is to out-compete’.

“The DiRAC HPC facility is an outstanding example of HPC driven innovation in action. While it was originally established to support the UK’s world leading research in particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and nuclear physics, DiRAC has delivered technological innovations with global impact and developed techniques now being applied in fields as diverse as personalised medicine, government planning and solar weather forecasting.”

STFC said the upgrade will make DiRAC up to 10 times more energy efficient than previous generations.

The new computers will be deployed over the coming months, with first scientific results expected to be presented in September at DiRAC Day 2021, the annual community event.

Image from iStock, Nadia

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