Research Capability Greatly Enhanced for N8 Research Partnership

Eight research intensive universities in the North of England, known as the N8 Research Partnership now has access to one of the largest shared memory computing platforms to accelerate their research.

The N8 Research Partnership is a collaboration of the eight most research intensive Universities in the North of England: Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.

The N8 Research Partnership is focused on developing two Research Themes; AgriFood and Urban & Community Transformation. The themes will develop over 3-5 years to provide a platform of high-quality research and multiple collaborative ventures. N8 is also promoting three emerging Communities; topics that have the potential to grow into future Research themes.

High Performance Computing for the Future

To support such high levels of intensive research conducted by all eight universities, it was vital for all research sites to have access to a powerful system with large reserves of storage and the capacity to cope with a peak performance of over 110 trillion operations per second.

Another core requirement was the ability to share data and enable ease of engagement for all academic and industry researchers across the N8 partnership.

With over 25 years' experience working with research intensive Universities, Esteem was chosen as the ideal partner for the N8 Partnership HPC project providing reliable support and unparalled knowledge and expertise. The funds to purchase the N8 HPC platform were awarded to the University of Manchester by the Medical Research Council (MRC) as part of an investment in The Farr Institute for Health Informatics Research, of which the Health eResearch Centre (HeRC) is a founding partner. Due to timescales determined by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as well as the limited datacentre space at the University of Manchester, it was agreed that the N8 HPC supercomputer would be housed at the University of Leeds where it would be available to all of the N8 universities to link to and use for a wide spectrum of applications.

Due to the incredibly short timescale within which the project had to be delivered, it was important important for procurement to be fast and reliable. As the University of Leeds already had a long standing relationship with Esteem, it was agreed that the project would be carried out through the established HPC framework the University has with Esteem.

As per the requirements, Esteem then ran a full and rigorous tender process on behalf of the N8 partnership. As a result, SGI, a HPC specialist was awarded the contract.

Co-ordinate, Scale and Accelerate

Based at the University of Leeds and run jointly with the University of Manchester and all N8 partners, the £3.25 million HPC facility offers high performance computing on a scale which previously has not been available to researchers in the North of England.

The SGI UV2, which has 4TB of memory within a single platform will open up new avenues of research and address a class of problems on a magnitude greater than any of the previous infrastructure could manage. With short project timescales, specialist HPC solutions provider, Esteem Systems, designed, installed and commissioned the N8 High Performance Computing solution on time.

In addition to providing a shared facility for academic research, the N8 HPC platform also encourages engagement between industry and academic research using e-infrastructure, developing skills in the use of e-infrastructure and shares skills and equipment across the partnership.

Alan Real, Head of High Performance Computing at the University of Leeds and Technical Director for the N8 partnership, said: "The SGI UV2 solution solves our challenge of delivering large scale computing capability into data sensitive scenarios."

By working closely with Esteem, not only have the N8 Partnership successfully met their aims to provide a scalable, accessible platform, but they have the ability to provide unparalleled services to future researchers and research projects.

"Access to the N8 HPC system was a critical factor that enabled the team to finish the research on time... The researchers report that they were very impressed by the system as their software ran twice as fast on the N8 HPC than on previous systems when using the same number of cores" says Dr Lee Margetts, Research Computing Services at the University of Manchester.


Key benefits reported

  • Systems with the ability to cope with over 110 trillion operations per second
  • Support for intensive and valuable research across eight universities with continuous uptime
  • Ability to share data and enable engagement between academic and industry researchers
  • Powerful hardware allowing applications to run twice as fast

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