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UK universities launch supercomputing hub for businesses

Extra compute capacity available to firms in the Midlands and London

Four UK universities have partnered to launch a supercomputing hub that aims to provide modelling, simulation and analysis services to SMEs and larger businesses.

The University of Warwick, University of Birmingham, University of Nottingham and Queen Mary, University of London, have each put in £1.5 million into the MidPlus high performance computing centre, while research funding agency EPSRC has provided £2 million in investment.

MidPlus aims to provide extra computing capacity to sectors such as aerospace, biomedical, advanced materials and automotive. It will also provide consultancy and training services from the universities' HPC experts.

The centre's facilities will be open to businesses along the M1/M6 corridor in the East and West Midlands and London.

Professor Mark Rodger, director of Midplus, said: "The large set-up cost to exploit high-performance computing, both in terms of equipment and expertise, can be a major barrier to SMEs expanding into newer or bigger markets, so MidPlus will make it easier for them to step up into the next league.

"It is vital that the UK maintains its investment in e-infrastructure in order to compete on a global scale."

Warwick revealed its plans to sell HPC power to businesses through OCF's enCORE service, last September. It awarded OCF a £1.3 million contract for a new Linux-based HPC facility at its Centre for Scientific Computing (CSC) in November 2010.

The university will increase its current capacity to give a 6,000 core cluster by the summer. It said that the upgrade will enable it to carry out very large and realistic simulations quickly and efficiently.

Meanwhile, a 2,900-core cluster at Queen Mary has been designed to provide significant capacity for tasks that involve running large numbers of simulations with different data sets.

In addition, Birmingham and Nottingham are establishing a large file store and data archive, which will be mirrored between the two sites, to ensure the security and integrity of the data. This will enable businesses to access the research databases generated by the four universities, as well as allow them to store or commercialise their own in-house databases.

OCF, the data processing, management and storage provider, launched enCORE, an on-demand service that allows any UK business to use processing power from universities' HPC facilities, in December 2010.


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