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HPE is planning to build mini-supercomputers at British universities

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has joined forces with chipmaker Arm, software firm SUSE and the UK government to build mini-supercomputers at three British universities.

The initiative, called Catalyst UK, aims to accelerate the adoption of supercomputing among businesses and academics across the country.

HPE will design, build and support high performance machines at Edinburgh, Bristol and Leicester universities. Together, the three clusters will run more than 12,000 Arm-based cores, hosted by HPE Apollo 70 systems.

The science minister, Sam Gyimah, described the announcement as a “major step forward” in harnessing the power of supercomputing and AI in the UK. He added: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, AI Grand Challenge and upcoming Sector Deal, the UK will lead the AI and data revolution.”

As part of the Catalyst UK programme, researchers will be trained to work with Arm-based systems, with the aim of one day develop exascale computers – those which can execute a billion billion calculations per second.

Mike Vildibill, VP of HPE’s advanced technologies group, said he has seen “an insatiable demand for compute performance” as businesses become increasingly reliant on data analytics.

With each of the three clusters expected to consume around 30KW of power, Vildibill added that it’s essential researchers start to tackle the barriers to entry: “As we embark on the global race towards more powerful and eventually exascale systems, new approaches and technologies are needed to tackle some of the key challenges in achieving these levels of performance, such as rising energy consumption.”

Drew Henry, senior vice president of Arm’s Infrastructure Business Unit, said Arm had a “long history” of collaborating with industry and academia: “We’re particularly excited now to provide UK researchers and many others greater access to Arm high-performance server technology.”

Thomas Di Giacomo, SUSE’s CTO, added that the collaborative nature of the programme would be key to its success: “Increasing the exposure of open source operating systems and tools to student and other real-world users and workloads will significantly improve and enhance the software available on Arm-based architectures.”