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World-class supercomputer "HECToR" to recieve substantial upgrade

Ranked sixteenth in the world in 2010, the UK's most powerful supercomputer, “HECToR”,which is held at the University of Edinburgh, will undergo a major upgrade later this year that is estimated to improve its performance more than two fold. HECToR is part of the UK's national high performance computing service and is used in academic and commercial research.

Many aspects of modern research are enabled through the use of supercomputers. Some computational problems that are unfeasible on standard PCs could be accomplished in minutes on supercomputers such as HECToR, and with the continual expansion in the scale of scientific problems, the demand for such computing resources is increasing. An eclectic mix of scientific problems have already been successfully tackled using HECToR, including the understanding of hydrogen bonds, the modelling of cardiac arrythmia, the optimisation of weather forecasting, and gait reconstruction of dinosaurs.

HPCX Ltd and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre implemented the last major upgrade in June 2010. Currently occupying an area of two tennis courts and comprising 44,544 processing cores, the planned upgrade will expand HECToR from a 20 cabinet system to a to 30 cabinet Cray XE6 system. The company behind its construction, Cray Inc., will also be replacing all existing processors with new AMD Opteron 6200 Series "Interlagos" processors. Ultimately, the upgraded version will be capable of performing 827 trillion calculations per second.

Speaking about the deal, Dr. Ulla Thiel, Cray vice president, Europe, said "Upgrading the HECToR system will ... provide important continuity, allowing researchers to maintain their focus on pushing the frontiers of science. HECToR is at the forefront of high performance computing in Europe and we are honoured to be supporting its efforts."

The supercomputer is managed by UoE HPCX Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre.

Gibran Hemani

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