STFC DiRAC Project Office 2014-2017

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


It is now accepted that "computational science, the scientific investigation of physical processes through modelling and simulation on computers," is the third pillar of science, complementing and extending theory and experimentation" (International Review of Research using HPC in the UK, 2005).

The STFC DIRAC High Performance Computing Facility supports the simulation and modelling requirements of those communities that are represented by the Particle Physics Advisory Panel, Nuclear Physics Advisory Panel, Particle Astrophysics Advisory Panel, Astronomy Advisory Panel and the Solar System Science Advisory Panel.

Theoretical research in Particle Physics, Particle Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Astrophysics, Solar System and Planetary Science are world leading and DiRAC-enabled research has been published in high-impact refereed journals; 160 articles in 2010, 381 in 2011 and 2012 and over 250 papers produced in 2013 (see our publications list in our annual reports along with Science highlights at ).

Planned Impact

The high-performance computing applications supported by DiRAC typically involve new algorithms and implementations optimised for high energy efficiency which impose demands on computer architectures that the computing industry has found useful for hardware and system software design and testing.

DiRAC researchers have on-going collaborations with computing companies that maintain this strong connection between the scientific goals of the DiRAC Consortium and the development of new computing technologies that drive the commercial high-performance computing market, with economic benefits to the companies involved and more powerful computing capabilities available to other application areas including many that address socio-economic challenges.

The DiRAC Facility is designed to enable breakthrough science in the areas of lattice quantum chromodynamics, hadron physics, beyond the standard model physics, black hole Physics, whole system modelling of stars, solar systems, galaxies, the local universe and large scale structures; the early Universe and its evolution, cosmology and the nature of dark energy and dark matter, the formation and evolution of stars and planets and larger structures, and the chemistry of the Cosmos.


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Achúcarro A (2019) Cosmological evolution of semilocal string networks. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Adam AY (2019) Variationally Computed IR Line List for the Methyl Radical CH3. in The journal of physical chemistry. A

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Ali A (2019) Massive star feedback in clusters: variation of the FUV interstellar radiation field in time and space in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Almaraz E (2020) Nonlinear structure formation in Bound Dark Energy in Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics

Description We support all of PPAN science. The main highlights have been the modelling of the first Gravitaitonal Waves (the discovery of which won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics), the accurate properties of the B quark, and the most detailed models of Galaxy formation bythe VIRGO consortium
Exploitation Route They have opened up new areasin Physics, particularly gravitational waves, calculating particle properties to be measured by the LHC and the use of baryonic physics in comsological models. Our advances in software and hardware design are applicable to all fields of study and commerce. a growing list of technology companies (ARM, Dell, HPE, IBM, Intel, Mellanox, Nvidia). We have appointed an Innovation Director (Dr. Jeremy Yates) and used the 2017/18 BEIS capital investment to kick-start new strategic industrial collaborations. DiRAC's innovation strategy is aligned with the UK Industrial Strategy white paper. In particular, our strategy aims to:
1. Enhance engagement with industry around the challenges of machine learning and data intensive science.
2. Enhance engagement with broader Industry, the Hartree Centre, and other sectors on the exploitation and use of new technologies and of DiRAC computational resources.
3. Expand innovation programmes with industry partner(s) at all sites, including both component-level and system-level co-design and optimisation.
4. Further expand our comprehensive, in-house HPC skills training portfolio by working with industry partners and the eight STFC Centres for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science , thereby enhancing HPC skills training across the UK and increasing the net out-flow of upskilled workers into the UK economy.
5. Expand engagement with industrial partners on software engineering work for particle physics, astronomy and general HPC codes.
6. Increase industrial income and explore potential options for innovative business models to support the recurrent costs of services.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Description DiRAC has set up three Intel parallel computing centres which are being used to drive system design for heterogeneous architectures with SGI, writing maths libraries for intel and writing fine grained parallel task management libraries for intel. The work with SGI won an award at the SC15 for Best use of High Performance Data Analytics..• 4 EPSRC iCASE studentships co-funded by Intel/HP (Leicester), Intel/Cray (UCL), Intel/SGI (Cambridge), Intel/Lenovo (Durham); all in areas of advanced software design for new technologies. • DiRAC has secured 2 four-year PhD studentships with Mellanox/UCL and Lenovo/UCL in the areas of advanced cluster switch design and high volume and velocity machine learning, respectively. • DiRAC's Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Professor Peter Boyle, is the Co-Design leader for the Intel-Alan Turing Institute (ATI) Many Core Architecture Design team based in Edinburgh (one of only three teams worldwide). DiRAC's expertise provides the foundation upon which the ATI secured this unique international partnership with Intel's HPC architecture group, which has placed five hardware architects in Edinburgh, with Professor Boyle appointed both an Alan Turing Fellow and Co-Design Leader for the ATI. The two hardware architects hired by Intel to work with the ATI were two former DiRAC Research Software Engineers.• Support for STFC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Data Intensive Science - DiRAC is a partner in five of the eight of the newly established STFC CDTs, and is actively engaged with them in developing industrial partnerships. DiRAC is also offering placements to CDT students interested in Research Software Engineering roles. • Innovate UK - DiRAC was invited to join an InnovateUK bid entitled "High Performance Cloud for Artificial Intelligence (HiPerCloud-AI)" with StackHPC, Concertim Infrastructure Management, VScaler and Intelligent Voice. The bid, submitted in response to the "Emerging and Enabling" call for proposals in November 2017, focussed on work aimed at the elimination of the disablingly large latency caused by Cloud Operating Systems when parallel codes are run on cloud-operated clusters. If successful, it will give the UK practical experience in building, deploying and running weakly and strongly parallel applications on cloud platforms.The £9M DiRAC-2.5x intervention alone generated more than £1.5M of inward investment in addition to significant vendor discounts. These investments include: • Installation of an ARM-based cluster at the University of Leicester as a co-design project to increase the value of ARM technology in HPC (value: approx. £1M); • Support for co-design work with Intel at Edinburgh (value: approx. £0.25M per annum); • Co-funding for DiRAC Technical Manager position at Edinburgh (value: £45k); • Co-funding for a DiRAC Research Software Engineer at Leicester (value: £45k); • Support for co-design projects in flash technologies to accelerate storage access (Cambridge/Dell), flash technologies to allow simulation check-pointing (Durham/Dell), Authentication, Authorisation & Accounting Infrastructure (Edinburgh/HPE), Hierarchical Storage Management (Leicester/HPE); • Support for skills training workshops for DiRAC users and technical support staff.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic

Description DiRAC 2.5x Project Office 2017-2020
Amount £300,000 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 03/2020
Title Citation analysys and Impact 
Description Use of IT to determineacademic impact of eInfrastructure 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Understood emerging trends in DiRAC Science and helped decide the scale and type of IT investments and direct us to develop new technologies 
Description AAAI for the UK NeI 
Organisation Jisc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution PI of RCUK pilot project for AAAI
Collaborator Contribution Software development and testing at 8 UK HEIs and ROs
Impact SAFE+ASSET AAAI service
Start Year 2016
Description DiRAC Intel Parallel Computing Centres 
Organisation Intel Corporation
Department INTEL Research
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Organised dicussions which lead to the setting up of 3 INTEL Parallel Computing Centres, at Durham, Edinburgh and Cambridge. Co-ordinated bids and held pre-application discussions with INTEL and the three HEIs to ensure INTEL buy-in to the proposed projects
Collaborator Contribution Awards of £450k to fund 3 programmers for 2 years to i) build maths libraries for the KNL processor, (ii) build fine grain parallel job management libraries to mitigate the load balancing issue for weak balancing codes and (iii) develop heterogeneous architectures for data intensive problems
Impact multi-disciplinary In progress
Start Year 2014
Description STFC Centres for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science 
Organisation University of Leicester
Department STFC DiRAC Complexity Cluster (HPC Facility Leicester)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Support for STFC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Data Intensive Science - DiRAC is a partner in five of the eight of the newly established STFC CDTs, and is actively engaged with them in developing industrial partnerships. DiRAC is also offering placements to CDT students interested in Research Software Engineering roles.
Collaborator Contribution Students to work on interesting technical problems for DiRAC
Impact This is the first year
Start Year 2017
Title Collaboration with Atempo 
Description Tape to Tape data transfter between DiRAC sites. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Proof of COncept that data could be read from Tape stores remotely via a remote file system 
Description Member of UKRI E-Infrastructure Expert Panel 2017-2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Created 7 white papers for UKRI which detailed a Roadmap for future e-Infrastructure funding in the UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
Description NeI Project Directors Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Reports on AAAI, Data E-Infrastructure, Using Cloud for Research
The National NeI Survey 2014, 2015, 2016
Report on Gender in HPC
BEIS e-Infrastructure Business Case
Integration activities of the NeI
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017