Helping University Researchers Get the Job Done

GUEST BLOG BY DR. ANDREW RICHARDS, HEAD OF ADVANCED RESEARCH COMPUTING, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

More researchers than ever before are using computational analysis to deepen their understanding of the world around us. It’s not just astrophysicists and chemists who want access to high-performance computing any more — there is now growing demand from academics in humanities and social sciences, too. As well as enabling data mining of ancient documents, the new cluster will support the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project and anthropologists using agent-based modeling to study religious groups — there is a huge diversity of topics, and that will continue to grow in the coming years.

We knew that our old cluster simply would not be able to cope with increased demand. We wanted a new, much more powerful system for the University of Oxford’s Advanced Research Computing facility. After shortlisting three potential vendors, we chose to deploy Lenovo NeXtScale System M5 with 5,440 Intel processor cores. Not only did this offer far greater processing power than the other offerings, it was also much cheaper in terms of the total cost of ownership over three years.

A significant element in the cost savings is the efficiency of the solution, which uses little more energy than our previous cluster, despite having more than four times the number of processor cores. Total power draw was a physical constraint in itself — the Lenovo solution had to come in under our 11 kW per rack limit.

The Lenovo supercomputer is helping the university maintain its excellent reputation for academic research. Instead of churning through mountains of data on departmental desktops or personal laptops, researchers can now simply book a time to use our supercomputer and run their analyses in a fraction of the time — enabling academics to focus on extracting insight from results rather than waiting for them to process. We can also now offer NVIDIA Tesla GPUs to our researchers, and there is a vibrant research community developing around these capabilities.

For more information, read the University of Oxford Case Study.

Learn more about NeXtScale System.