The Hartree Centre helps businesses unlock the potential of HPC

Fostering collaboration and innovation across UK industry with help from IBM

Published on 13-Jan-2014

"A key advantage of working with IBM is their experience of bringing technology to non-specialist users." - Adrian Wander, Director of the Scientific Computing Department, STFC Daresbury Laboratory and STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

The Hartree Centre


Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Technical Computing, Big Data & Analytics, Big Data & Analytics: Transform processes, Big Data & Analytics: Improve IT, Cloud Computing, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Modernization, General Parallel File System (GPFS), High Availability , Smarter Computing

IBM Business Partner:
OCF plc


Founded in 2012 with a 37.5 million GBP investment from the UK government, the Hartree Centre was created by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to develop, deploy and demonstrate high-performance computing (HPC) solutions. Part of a center of expertise in computational science and engineering, the Hartree Centre is a research collaboratory in association with IBM, with facilities at the Sci-Tech Daresbury and Harwell Oxford national science and innovation campuses.

Business need:
The Hartree Centre needs leading-edge computing resources and expertise to hand in order to fulfill its mission to enhance accessibility and software development for high-performance computing (HPC).

In an ongoing collaboration, the Hartree Centre works closely with IBM and OCF to tailor HPC services to help users get the maximum benefit and develop and refine its supercomputing platforms.

By lowering the cost and complexity surrounding HPC, the center is able to remove the barriers to entry for businesses, fostering innovation and maximizing the impact of investments.

Case Study

Founded in 2012 with a 37.5 million GBP investment from the UK government, the Hartree Centre was created by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to develop, deploy and demonstrate high-performance computing (HPC) solutions. Part of a center of expertise in computational science and engineering, the Hartree Centre is a research collaboratory in association with IBM, with facilities at the Sci-Tech Daresbury and Harwell Oxford national science and innovation campuses.

Untapped potential
Using parallel processing to deliver unprecedented computing speeds, HPC can be used to tackle new frontiers of problem-solving, prediction and data analysis. As advanced modeling and simulation combined with Big Data capabilities continue to change the face of science and engineering, its potential for other industries is only just beginning to be revealed.

The Hartree Centre’s mission is to bring down the barriers to entry for businesses that may not have even considered using HPC services before. With a recent report estimating that European leadership in HPC could add as much as between two and three percent to Europe’s GDP by 20201, investments in the field of supercomputing potentially offer high returns with relatively low risk.

Cliff Brereton, Director of the Hartree Centre explains: “Through its investment in the Hartree Centre, the UK government aims to capitalize on the UK’s reputation for world-leading design and innovation by applying modeling and simulation techniques to cut down on design cycles and accelerate time to value.”

Recognizing the challenges
To make HPC a cost-effective proposition for users, the Hartree Centre needs to ensure maximum efficiency while delivering massive computing power. Moreover, ensuring that services are accessible to non-specialist users requires user-friendly interfaces and tailored support.

Michael Gleaves, Head of Business Development at the Hartree Centre, says: “It is up to STFC [the Science and Technology Facilities Council] and IBM to maximize return on investments in the Hartree Centre and broaden its offering beyond the traditional users of modeling, simulation and data exploration. To reach new users, our services need to be cost-effective and easy to use.”

Building a solution
Using IBM technology, the Hartree Centre, IBM and IBM Business Partner OCF have built two supercomputers, named Blue Joule and Blue Wonder. The Hartree Centre can call upon the expertise of 170 staff within the Scientific Computing Department to continue to work with leading-industry experts from IBM to develop software for the platforms.

Blue Joule is built on IBM® Blue Gene®/Q technology, a system comprising seven full rack units of Power A2 processors, with a total of more than 114,000 processor cores and 7 TB RAM.

The second supercomputer, named Blue Wonder, is an IBM System x® iDataPlex® dx360 M4 cluster, composed of 512 computing nodes, each with dual eight-core Intel Xeon E5-2670 processors with a minimum of 32 GB of memory. The systems are connected by IBM General Parallel File System (GPFS™) software to 5.7 PB of high-performance DDN SFA10K disk storage and a 15 PB IBM System Storage® TS3500 tape library.

Blue Joule is the fastest and most energy-efficient supercomputer in the UK. It is currently the sixteenth fastest computer in the world. Blue Wonder is ranked at 158 on the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers.2

The Hartree Centre also works with OCF to offer enCORE on-demand HPC services that can be purchased at a scale to suit the customer. This helps small businesses eliminate the requirements for capital expenditure and in-house skills development that can often be a barrier to entry, and allows customers to sample the benefits that HPC can bring for the first time.

The Hartree Centre utilizes IBM expertise to deliver optimal performance while saving on electricity costs. For example, the center and IBM are investigating the use of energy-aware task scheduling to enable similar tasks to be bundled together, which could reduce the time and energy wasted on reconfiguring resources between jobs. The center is also looking at optimizing the balance between clock speed and energy consumption, where large energy savings can be achieved with nominal impact on performance.

The IBM teams have been able to draw on past experiences to help boost user-friendliness of the Hartree Center’s HPC solutions, as Adrian Wander, Director of the Scientific Computing Department at the STFC Daresbury Laboratory and STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory describes: “A key advantage of working with IBM is that not only are they at the leading edge of HPC, but they also have experience of bringing this technology to non-specialist users.

“For example, IBM recently worked on a project with Unilever where iPads were used as the user interface. We have been able to replicate elements of this interface for our own users – making a very complex set of assets much more accessible.”

Working with Big Data
Both Blue Joule and Blue Wonder use IBM GPFS software to manage massive volumes of high-performance data which are growing exponentially. GPFS allows thousands of compute nodes to access data simultaneously, enabling the massive parallelization of workload crucial for complex computing tasks at the center.

The Hartree Centre is exploring the use of Apache Hadoop, an open-source software project that enables the distributed processing of large data-sets across clusters of servers, to extract meaningful insights from large amounts of unstructured data. The center is also looking into the analysis of information in motion.

Michael Gleaves says: “Getting a handle on Big Data is a key challenge for businesses around the world, making it a significant opportunity for the Hartree Centre. Big Data is still within an early adopter phase within most businesses, and so offering a place where companies can come and explore the potential to gain insight and value from their data combined with available open data sets within projects is a critical goal for Hartree.”

Seeing it in action
One of the first major projects to benefit from the Hartree Centre’s services is “Gung-Ho”: a project to design and build a next-generation weather forecasting model for the UK; a collaboration between the Met Office, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and STFC.

Adrian Wander comments: “Severe winter weather experienced in the UK over the last couple of years is expected to have reduced the UK’s GDP by 0.5 percent, with the disruption to travel costing the economy up to £280 million per day.3 As a result, more accurate weather forecasting can have a huge impact. By using sophisticated models that study and simulate how air moves, we can help the Met Office and NERC gain a more detailed and precise understanding of weather conditions.”

Encouraging collaboration
Fostering collaboration and innovation is at the heart of the Hartree Centre’s ethos, and its participants are already seeing the positive consequences.

One example is the automotive industry, as Michael Gleaves explains: “Automotive companies are a great example of the difference HPC can make. Building a physical wind tunnel to test the aerodynamics of your design costs millions, while running virtual tests with us can yield accurate results at a tiny fraction of the cost and time. Working with the Hartree Centre, companies such as Bentley Motors and Jaguar Land Rover are collaborating with organizations such as VEC [Virtual Engineering Centre] and Optis to explore ways to dramatically reduce development cycles.”

The Hartree Centre is also working with laboratories and research organizations around the world. Adrian Wander concludes: “Collaboration and knowledge-sharing are part of the Hartree Centre’s DNA. By joining up with similar organizations we can identify skills and assets that complement our own, and deliver even more value to UK businesses.”

For more information
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Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Blue Gene, Storage, Storage: TS1140 Tape Drive, Storage: TS3500 Tape Library, System x, System x: iDataPlex dx360 M4

General Parallel File System, General Parallel File System for Linux on xSeries

Operating system:

STG Lab Services: Other

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2014. IBM United Kingdom Limited. PO Box 41. North Harbour. Portsmouth. Hampshire. PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom. January 2014. IBM, the IBM logo,, Blue Gene/Q, GPFS, iDataPlex, System Storage and System x are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at Intel, the Intel logo, Xeon and Xeon Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. enCORE is a service of OCF plc. IBM and OCF plc are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor OCF plc makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Statements regarding IBM’s future direction and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice, and represent goals and objectives only. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated.