EPCC Tier 2 HPC Service

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre


EPCC is the supercomputer centre at the University of Edinburgh. Throughout our 26-year history, EPCC has significant experience of running supercomputer services for both academic and industrial researchers. We currently run the UK's national supercomputer, ARCHER, that is used for modelling new materials, designing more efficient engines and investigating climate change.

This proposal is to enhance an existing supercomputer with additional compute nodes, and to add a significant amount of next generation accelerators. The design of supercomputers is going through a period of change and accelerators are becoming increasingly important to provide faster supercomputers while using less electricity. This enhanced system will be useful for researchers across the UK to prepare their computer programmes to make effective use of future national supercomputer systems after ARCHER.

As computers become more powerful, they generate ever-increasing amounts of data. Managing and analysing this data is very important to help researchers make new scientific discoveries. This proposal also includes increasing the size of the large data storage facility at EPCC. This will allow researchers to store their data, share it with other people, move it between different supercomputers, and make new discoveries that will improve society and people's lives.

There will be a number of these medium-size supercomputers funded alongside the existing national supercomputer, ARCHER. These will have different features and so will be useful for different research problems. It is important that these supercomputers work together to provide maximum benefits for everyone. We will work with all the other successful proposals to provide a coherent service across all the different supercomputers. Most of the time on our supercomputer will be freely available for researchers from throughout the UK. We will work together with the other successful proposals to ensure that researchers can get access to the most appropriate system/ In addition, we have developed a we.-based portal that makes it easier for users to access the different systems. As part of our proposal, we will work with all the other successful proposals so that they can use our web-based portal completely free of cost.

Planned Impact

The EPCC National Tier 2 Integration and HPC Accelerator Service will deliver strong scientific and industrial impact now and in the future in three specific areas:

1. Through support via SAFE for the creation of a national network of Tier 2 centres;
2. By preparing key codes from the UK scientific software base for use on Intel Xeon Phi accelerators on the road to the Exascale by the mid-2020s; and
3. Delivering an enhanced EPCC industry service to companies around the UK, Europe and beyond.


EPCC has run national services for EPSRC since the Cray T3D in 1994. Our SAFE software has developed over the past 20 years from simple scripts to the comprehensive web-based system we use today. Although most UK users know SAFE from the point of view of account and resource management, there is also significant value in its helpdesk and reporting functionality.

By deploying SAFE across the Tier 2 network we hope to amplify the value of this funding, demonstrating the impact a joined-up Tier 2 service will have on EPSRC's scientific community and the wider UK scientific and industrial communities.


Although Exascale computers are 6-8 years away, the technologies that are likely to be used in them are becoming clearer. There will be an increase in the use of accelerators, a greater focus on heterogeneity, more complex memory hierarchies, and new models of I/O. The HPC Accelerator Service that will be provided by this funding will allow EPCC to work with the EPSRC scientific community to prepare their scientific software codes and simulation techniques for the very high core counts and complex memory hierarchies expected to dominate in the future. By starting this work now, the impact of future national services, such as ARCHER 2, will be maximised.

Additionally, the funding will support the creation of a Tier 2 RDF service. Here we will work with the other Tier 2 centres and their user base to explore the value of different high level data services such that the future impact of investment in EPSRC's RDF can be maximised.


Since 1990 when EPCC was created, we have had a strong focus on working with industry. Not only is such work a key part of our business model, it is also a key part of our mission - "to accelerate the effective uptake of HPC and novel computing by industry, academia and commerce". Our value proposition delivers competitive advantage in the form of lower costs, improved products and services, and accelerated time to market for our industrial customers in segments such as engineering, energy, oil and gas, renewables, manufacturing and materials, life sciences, aerospace and automotive, and financial services.

Our successful and sustainable business model has been instrumental in allowing us to invest in HPC resources for industry. In 2012, EPCC, at its own expense, bought the INDY system that it has used, along with ARCHER, to deliver cycle-sales to industry over the past 4 years. In April 2016, this system was replaced by INDY 2, a state of the art SGI ICE XA system dedicated to industrial use. It is this system we intend to expand with this funding, further encouraging industrial collaboration and our long-term sustainability.


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Description It has been possible to operate the EPSRC Tier 2 HPC service for the benefit of both academic scientific research and industrial use. In particular, over the past 3 years we have had around 80 industry users annually on the system, either using it in collaborative projects with academic researchers or on a pay-per-use basis.
Exploitation Route If appropriate support for users is provided, coupled to a properly skilled business development team, any HPC centre should be able to develop local support for businesses on their HPC service.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description EPCC's Tier 2 HPC Service - called Cirrus - has provided access to a number of companies over the past four years to help them improve their products and services. Many of these companies have come from the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Cirrus also formed part of the EC-funded Fortissimo Cloud of HPC Resources which provided pay-on-demand access to its resources for companies across Europe. A small company, the Fortissimo Marketplace Ltd has been established with the PI as Managing Director which markets Cirrus and other Fortissimo Cloud systems to companies across Europe.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport
Impact Types Economic

Description IAA Grant to Accelerate the impact of Cirrus uptake across Scottish Manufacturing SMEs via outreach in collaboration with CEED 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We received an Impact Accelerator Activity award to allow us to promote the Cirrus Tier 2 service to Scottish Manufacturing SMEs. The work was undertaken in collaboration with CEED - an organisation representing Scottish Manufacturing and Engineering companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017