Supercomputers Powering World's Largest Microbial Science Source

Oct 30, 2015

Both UK-wide and international science collaboration on a key area of biological study is going to be that much easier now a new supercomputer's backing our boffins.

That's in the shape of CLIMB - The Cloud Infrastructure for Microbial Bioinformatics - a collaboration between the Universites of Birmingham, Warwick, Cardiff and Swansea, who're coming together to back a new free-to-use, world leading cyber infrastructure specifically designed for microbial bioinformatics research. 

Previously, lead architect of the system, Senior Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Biosciences Thomas Connor, told, researchers faced getting bogged down in the face of the very large data and storage requirements of most of the work in the area of bacterial pathogens.

"This stuff creates terabytes of data every few days," he said. "It was just too inefficient, the way most of us were working."

Hence CLIMB, a massive 2000 terabyte system (500 at each of the four Unis) that also offers no less than 78 terabytes of RAM.

Sheffield-based Supercompute VAR OCF

The beast, also capable of spinning up to a thousand virtual machines simultaneously, looks like the best bet to meet the challenge of processing the large, rich, biological datasets the microbiology community craves to work on - as, at 7,500 vCPU cores of processing power, it's easily the largest single system designed specifically for microbiologists ever.

“Datasets within microbiology are very different to traditional HPC research," said Connor. "Workloads are often either embarrassingly parallel or very high memory, and all require large amounts of high performance storage.

"CLIMB has been specifically designed to take this into account, to enable the microbial bioinformatics community within the UK to access facilities they are unlikely to have available locally.”

The fully open source OpenStack system is built using Lenovo System X servers connected to IBM Spectrum Scale storage connected through 56GB Infiniband, configured and delivered by Sheffield-based supercomputer VAR OCF.

(c) 2015

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