Bringing Together AI and HPC to Drive Scientific Breakthroughs

A new supercomputer at the University of Cambridge illustrates the power of the ongoing convergence of high performance computing and artificial intelligence.

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Dell EMC

In today’s data centers, a great convergence is under way, bringing together high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence, along with data analytics, in a single system. This convergence makes complete sense, given that these technologies are designed to unlock the value of data, and it’s difficult to reach AI goals without HPC.

For a real-life example of this convergence, we can look to the University of Cambridge’s latest supercomputer, called Cumulus–UK Science Cloud. Cumulus was launched by the University’s Research Computing Services organization, which provides leading-edge computational services to academic researchers and the broader realm of the UK scientific and industrial community. Researchers use the Cumulus system to solve some of today’s most demanding data-driven simulation and AI challenges, from those involving medical imaging and genomic analysis to the mapping of exoplanets.

To drive this type of data-intensive research, Cumulus provides more than 2 petaflops of performance, powered by Dell EMC PowerEdge™ servers, Intel® Xeon® processors and the Intel® Omni-path Architecture (Intel® OPA). The system incorporates OpenStack® software to control pools of compute, storage and networking resources and make them readily accessible to users via a cloud interface.

In addition, Cumulus boosts system performance and throughput with a Data Accelerator, an innovative orchestrator built by the University of Cambridge and StackHPC. With this accelerator, the system provides more than 500 GB/s of I/O read performance and 2 million IOPS to rev up the UK’s most advanced supercomputing cloud.1

Dr. Paul Calleja, the University’s Director of Research Computing Services, notes that the Cumulus system has what it takes to help users solve extremely difficult data-driven, simulation and AI challenges. “For people who need to do analytics or machine learning and process lots of data, we are bringing together on one system high levels of compute and high levels of I/O, combined with Hadoop and machine learning frameworks delivered within an OpenStack software environment, which allows both customizability and security for the tenants,” Dr. Calleja says. “With all those things together, this machine can be used to deliver data-centric research to new and emerging communities.”1

The University of Cambridge is a perpetual leader in driving scientific breakthroughs, from those of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to Stephen Hawking and Jane Goodall, to name just a few of the institution’s notable alumni. Members of the University have won Nobel Prizes for advances as diverse as the discovery of the structure of DNA, the development of a national income accounting system and the discovery of penicillin.2

Today, with resources like the Cumulus supercomputer, Cambridge is fueling the work of a new generation of researchers whose studies require the analysis and manipulation of massive amounts of data to dive new discoveries. And that, in a few words, is what becomes possible when you bring together the capabilities of high performance computing and artificial intelligence into a single system.

To learn more

For a closer look at the University of Cambridge’s Cumulus supercomputer, check out the Dell EMC case study “UK Science Cloud.” To explore the technologies for HPC and AI in a converged world, visit dellemc.com/hpc and dellemc.com/ai.


1 Dell EMC case study, “UK Science Cloud,” November 2018.

2 University of Cambridge, Research: Nobel Prize, accessed February 11, 2019.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.