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STFC & Lenovo unveil advanced, energy-efficient supercomputer in UK
Mon, 1st Apr 2024

In a significant development for UK research, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has announced its latest upgrade at the Hartree Centre. Partnering with tech giant Lenovo, STFC has signed an agreement to install a cutting-edge supercomputer that will be used to facilitate artificial intelligence (AI) research and applications for UK industry.

This powerful new system is tenfold more advanced compared to the existing supercomputer and will consume less electricity, courtesy of Lenovo’s innovative direct water cooling. The supercomputer is part of the Hartree Centre’s £210 million Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) programme. It aims to grant UK industry access to modern digital technologies and expertise to support the quickly growing dimensions of supercomputing and AI at the Hartree Centre.

The Lenovo ThinkSystem Neptune supercomputer is fitted with a processing power of 44.7 petaflop, meaning it can perform an astonishing 44 quadrillion floating-point operations (calculations) per second. To put this into context, it would take nearly 1400 million years to reach this number if one were to carry out a single calculation per second. This groundbreaking system marks a significant leap for the Hartree Centre's capabilities.

Besides providing supreme processing power and speed, this GPU-based system is also exceptionally energy efficient. It uses less space and electricity per unit of performance compared to its predecessor, Scafell Pike. This tech marvel has its energy demands reduced by up to 40% through innovative warm water cooling while also enhancing performance by up to 10%.

The Hartree Centre, based at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, is the only UK supercomputing centre dedicating its resources to industry engagement. Kate Royse, Director, STFC Hartree Centre, expressed her excitement about working with Lenovo, stating, "With our new supercomputer, we will be able to support UK industry in the use of big data and AI technologies to enable UK businesses to take a leading role internationally on the responsible adoption and exploitation of AI technology."

This facility will direct its potential towards addressing international challenges in fields like weather and climate modelling, cleaner energy initiatives, drug discovery, health technologies, new materials research, automotive advancements, and legal applications. It will significantly decrease the time and cost associated with research breakthroughs which shall favour organisations like the Met Office, Unilever, and Rolls Royce, whom the Hartree Centre has collaborated with over the last decade.

Noam Rosen, EMEA Director HPC/AI, Lenovo, shared about their enthusiasm in collaborating with the Hartree Centre, "... it's about building a versatile, robust, and powerful system tailored to meet the Centre's diverse and evolving needs. From advanced modelling and simulation in various scientific disciplines to pioneering work in AI and machine learning, this new power-efficient supercomputer will be a cornerstone for innovation..."

Mark Thomson, Executive Chair, STFC, also commented on the new agreement: “STFC's agreement with Lenovo is an exciting milestone in our mission to provide UK businesses with access to the vital infrastructure and expertise that will help them to grow and succeed on a global scale, which in turn will drive productivity and job creation."