The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has signed an agreement with NVIDIA to build supercomputers "1,000 times more powerful" than any existing ones in the UK.

The computers will "provide a step-change" for researchers and industry in areas such as climate modelling, stress analysis, materials modelling, molecular modelling and numerical weather simulation, said the STFC.

Using NVIDIA’s expertise in graphics and high performance computing, STFC will develop the software necessary to enable "exascale-class supercomputers" that will contain hundreds of thousands of graphics processing units (GPUs) "capable of performing a million trillion calculations per second".

The agreement between NVIDIA and STFC follows a £37.5 million investment in March last year by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in high performance computing at Daresbury Laboratory, as part of its UK e-infrastructure initiative.

David Corney, acting director of STFC’s Department of Scientific Computing, said, “This agreement combines NVIDIA’s leading-edge GPU accelerator technologies and HPC expertise with STFC’s software development expertise.

"This unique combination will enable the development of next-generation massively parallel applications, which will be used for exascale performance levels, or a thousand times more powerful than Blue Joule at STFC, the most powerful computer in the UK today.”

Minister for universities and science David Willetts, said, "This partnership will bring together leading researchers and business. It confirms the position of Daresbury and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory as world-class science facilities. It supports our forthcoming Information Economy Industrial Strategy."

The collaboration will offer scientists access to one of the largest software development laboratories in the world, STFC’s Hartree Centre at Daresbury Laboratory, which is dedicated to modelling and simulation software.

The move, said the STFC, will allow academia and industry to fully exploit the benefits of current and future high performance computing (HPC) systems, "resulting in much faster and higher quality outcomes".

Professor John Womersley, chief executive of STFC, said, “Academia and industry are increasingly making use of HPC and Big Data to improve the quality of their output, reduce time to value and make more productive use of their research and development spend. This is an excellent example of STFC working with industrial collaborators for the benefit of the UK economy and research base.”

STFC said key benefits of the partnership to researchers would be to facilitate them designing new algorithms and approaches to fully use future HPC infrastructure. There would also be training support for industry and research application developers in the use of parallel computing techniques.

The future would see the development of a "cadre of experts" capable of teaching programming methodologies for accelerator based systems to the UK computational science community.

Earlier this week analyst IDC predicted a growing market for supercomputers this year despite a sales slip in the first quarter.

IDC anticipates that through the rest of 2013, the supercomputers segment of the high performance computing market will see increased growth driven by the deployment of additional large systems across the world - like the ones at STFC.

"Supercomputer revenues actually accelerated during the global economic downturn, driven by the growing recognition of the crucial role these systems play in economic competitiveness as well as scientific progress," said IDC analyst Earl Joseph.

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