EPCC to install new HPE Apollo 70 system as part of collaboration to advance digitisation of UK economy

16 April 2018

EPCC is very pleased to announce its involvement in the Catalyst UK programme, a collaboration between HPE, ARM, SUSE and three UK Universities (Edinburgh, Bristol and Leicester). You can read the full press announcement here: Academia and Industry Collaborate to Drive UK Supercomputer Adoption.

Thanks to considerable investment by the three companies, in a few months’ time EPCC will install a 4,096-core HPE Apollo 70 system. This system will use the new Cavium ThunderX2 ARM 32-core processor. For a number of years, the ARM processor, which powers more devices than any other processor technology on the planet, has been touted as a contender for the next generation of HPC systems. The ThunderX2 from Cavium represents the first serious attempt to produce an HPC-grade multi-core processor based on the ARM instruction set and design.

If ARM is to become a serious contender in the HPC world, it’s crucial that there is a fully optimised and well-tested software stack to support users and their application codes. EPCC’s focus will be on porting many of the UK’s key computational science applications – many of the applications that run on the National HPC Service, ARCHER, today – to the Apollo 70 system to explore its performance and identify how best to compile and optimise codes for this new processor. There is of course huge expertise in writing highly-optimised software for the ARM core today, but most of this experience is in mobile applications rather than numerically intensive simulation codes.

EPCC will contribute two PhD studentships to the endeavour along with a programme of software porting by EPCC staff and all of the running costs of the system. The system itself will be installed at EPCC’s state-of-the art data centre, the Advanced Computing Facility. It is our intention to run a general user service on the system once it has been installed and configured. There will be more news on this over the summer.

“Following HPE's purchase of SGI in 2017 we’ve built a new, strong relationship with the merged companies. This is a very exciting time in high-performance computing as we look to the Exascale. New technologies are needed to reach an Exaflop and ARM-based processors may be a key component. We’re looking forward to installing the system and exploring the performance of a large-scale, Infiniband-based ARM system for the first time”. 
Professor Mark Parsons, Director of EPCC.

Catalyst UK

The key focus of the Catalyst UK programme is to investigate and showcase the potential of Arm-based HPC installations. This is one of the current approaches to overcome the limitations of traditional computer architectures and offer a better price-performance ratio for modern workloads and applications. This includes AI, which needs to process large amounts of data and requires extremely high memory bandwidth, and exascale computing, which requires HPC systems to be hundreds of times faster and more efficient than today’s fastest supercomputers. 


Tracy Peet
+44 (0) 131 650 5362

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