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OCF Builds POWER8 Supercomputer for Atomic Weapons Establishment in the UK

High Performance Computing integrator OCF is supporting scientific research at the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), with the design, testing and implementation of a new HPC cluster and a separate big data storage system.

AWE has been synonymous with science, engineering and technology excellence in support of the UK’s nuclear deterrent for more than 60 years. AWE, working to the required Ministry of Defense program, provides and maintains warheads for the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The new HPC system is built on IBM’s POWER8 architecture and a separate parallel file system, called Cedar 3, built on IBM Spectrum Scale. In early benchmark testing, Cedar 3 is operating 10 times faster than the previous high-performance storage system at AWE. Both server and storage systems use IBM Spectrum Protect for data backup and recovery.

“Our work to maintain and support the Trident missile system is undertaken without actual nuclear testing, which has been the case ever since the UK became a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); this creates extraordinary scientific and technical challenges – something we’re tackling head on with OCF,” comments Paul Tomlinson, HPC Operations at AWE. “We rely on cutting-edge science and computational methodologies to verify the safety and effectiveness of the warhead stockpile without conducting live testing. The new HPC system will be vital in this ongoing research.”

From the initial design and concept to manufacture and assembly, AWE works across the entire life cycle of warheads through the in-service support to decommissioning and disposal, ensuring the maximum safety and protecting national security at all times.

The central data storage, Cedar 3, will be in use for scientists across the AWE campus, with data replicated across the site.

The work of AWE is of national importance and so its team of scientists need complete faith and trust in the HPC and big data systems in use behind the scenes, and the people deploying the technology,” says Julian Fielden, managing director, OCF. “Through our partnership with IBM, and the people, skills and expertise of our own team, we have been able to deliver a system which will enable AWE maintain its vital research,”

The new HPC system runs on a suite of IBM POWER8 processor-based Power systems servers running the IBM AIX V7.1 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system. The HPC platform consists of IBM Power E880, IBM Power S824L, IBM Power S812L and IBM Power S822 servers to provide ample processing capability to support all of AWE’s computational needs and an IBM tape library device to back up computation data.

Cedar 3, AWE’s parallel file system storage, is an IBM Storwize storage system. IBM Spectrum Scale is in use to enable AWE to more easily manage data access amongst multiple servers.

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