HPC Bear Cloud to Power Research at University of Birmingham

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bear-dpResearchers at the University of Birmingham will soon be given a boost this week with the launch of an HPC system known as BEAR Cloud.

Designed specifically with researchers in mind, the Birmingham Environment for Academic Research (BEAR) Cloud will augment an already rich set of IT services at the University of Birmingham and will be used by academics across all disciplines, from Medicine to Archaeology, and Physics to Theology.

“We are very proud of the new system, but building a research cloud isn’t easy,” said Simon Thompson, Research Computing Infrastructure Architect in IT Services at the University of Birmingham. “We challenged a range of carefully-selected partners to provide the underlying technology.”

BEAR Cloud retains the power of traditional High Performance Computing while benefitting from the latest virtualization technology built on OpenStack. OpenStack technology is used to deliver more flexibility and ease of access than is found in traditional HPC batch processing environments. This private cloud facility will provide an environment in which it is easy to deploy and reconfigure instances on demand to meet the computationally intensive needs of research groups. Demands will be highly variable but will include HPC clusters, dedicated workflows such as Galaxy for genomics, and Matlab processing farms.

The virtual servers will be created on demand. These servers can have different operating systems – different varieties of Linux or Windows for instance – and can be tailored for applications that have been developed for particular environments.

The service runs on Lenovo’s NeXtscale direct water cooled nodes – the first deployment in the UK – delivering impressive energy saving by minimizing the cooling overheads.

Flexibility to configure for different workloads, secure isolation between tenants and the ability to bring existing HPC environments into the facility are the hallmarks of this major new facility.

In addition to our partners at Lenovo, we are also working with Mellanox, who are providing us with the ConnectX-4 VPI technology and Infiniband using SwitchIB-2 to bring us best in class hardware offload to support the workloads, said Thompson. “SFA storage from DDN gives us scale and performance and IBM Spectrum Scale makes it easy to use and integrate, and the whole system is supported by HPC, storage and data analytics provider OCF.”

The launch of BEAR Cloud will be celebrated with a one-day conference held in the University’s prestigious Bramall Concert Hall on Friday 21st October. The event, opened by Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Birmingham, features talks by academics from departments across the University who have used the system in their research.

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