PORTLAND, Ore. — This week the University of Southampton switched on what it claims to be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the United Kingdom, the 250 teraflop Iridis4. To be used for advanced scientific and engineering research at the university, the Iridis4 is based on an IBM Intelligent Cluster x86 architecture.
"Iridis4 is one of the largest supercomputers in the UK and one of the largest in the world, in fact," said Southampton's director of research computing, Oz Parchment, in a video about Iridis4. "What we are aiming for here is to continue to build on our world-class research by providing suitable research infrastructure. A heavily science- and engineering-based university like Southampton has an absolute requirement for supercomputing to allow it to develop new models, new methods, new insights."
The Iridis4 is being used to advance the state of the art in hundreds of research areas of science and engineering as diverse as new medical implants and big-data analytics. One example cited at the announcement was minimizing the noise caused by airfoils for aircraft wings, propellers, and turbine blades. Airfoil design requires detailed simulations of turbulence -- a phenomenon that involves many parallel calculations to account for both slow and rapid chaotic changes in pressure and velocity as the airfoil disturbs the medium around it, according to University of Southampton professor Richard Sandberg.
The Iridis4 supercomputer at the University of Southampton is on an IBM Intelligent Cluster x86 architecture.
(Source: University of Southampton)
"The work I do is based on simulations of turbulence, so I need a computer to do these simulations of turbulence, which is incredibly difficult to understand, because we have a wide range of length scales and time scales," said Sandberg in the video. "We really need supercomputing to solve any type of relevant problem."
The Iridis4, which the University of Southampton ranks as one of the top 10 fastest supercomputers in the UK, was purchased from IBM for $5.1 million (£3.2 million) and includes more than 12,200 Intel Xeon x86 cores, 24 Xeon Phi coprocessors, more than 50 terabytes of main memory, and over a petabyte of hard disk storage.
The University of Southampton's previous supercomputer -- the Iridis3 -- will remain operational to service what it calls the e-Infrastructure South Consortium, a group of research universities including Southampton, the University of Bristol, Oxford University, and University College London.