HPC facilities for UK researchers

Andy Turner, EPCC


Clone/fork this presentation at: https://github.com/EPCCed/EPCC-Facilities-Presentation

Slide content is available under under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This means you are free to copy and redistribute the material and adapt and build on the material under the following terms: You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license and indicate if changes were made. If you adapt or build on the material you must distribute your work under the same license as the original.
Note that this presentation contains images owned by others. Please seek their permission before reusing these images.

Built using reveal.js

reveal.js is available under the MIT licence



  • One of Europe's top HPC centres
  • 27 years old: ~90 staff
  • Fully self-sustaining: £8m turnover per annum
  • Leading UK national HPC provider
  • Range of expertise: HPC to Data Science and Cloud
  • Work closely with academia and industry
  • FARR INSTITUTE: data analytics service for NHS Scotland safe haven
  • SSI: better software, better research
  • FORTISSIMO: Europe's largest collaborative programme for HPC with SMEs

Facilities hosted at EPCC ACF

  • ARCHER - UK National Supercomputing Service
  • DiRAC Extreme Scaling - STFC national HPC service
  • Cirrus - National Tier-2 HPC resource
  • UK RDF - Large scale data store and analysis
  • ATI - Novel data science platforms
  • FARR - NHS Scotland safe haven and data analysis

UK HPC Facilities

HPC Tiers

  • Tier-1 Facilities: ARCHER and DiRAC
  • Tier-2 Facilities: (between Tier-1 and Tier-3!)
  • Tier-3 Facilities: institutional facilities
  • Other Facilities: e.g. public cloud

Distinctions often blur between different tiers

Information on facilities and how to access them


Open Source, community developed resource

HPC Services Covered


UK National Supercomputer Service

ARCHER Service Design

  • High core count distributed memory: 1000+ cores
  • "Traditional" capability HPC
  • Main users: Materials science, Climate/ocean modelling, CFD, etc.
  • Growing interest in non-traditional use: e.g. data science, bioinformatics

Cray XC30: 118,080 cores (4920 nodes)
2× 12-core Xeon per node; 64/128 GiB memory

ARCHER Support

Large amount of support provided by EPCC

  • Helpdesk with access to all EPCC expertise
  • Free training across the UK
  • eCSE calls for software development
  • Benchmarking/profiling work to support users

All free at point of use

Access to ARCHER

Instant Access (EPSRC remit only)
Small amounts of resource to test ARCHER facilities
ARCHER Driving Test
Complete simple test and gain small amounts of resource to test ARCHER facilities
Resource Allocation Panel (RAP) (EPSRC remit only)
Applications for large amounts of ARCHER resource for 1 year
Grant Access
Add access costs to grant application (notional for EPSRC/NERC, real otherwise)



STFC National HPC Service

  • Range of different systems
  • Covers capacity to capability use
  • Main HPC resource for STFC
Extreme Scaling: Edinburgh BG/Q
Designed for applications that scale to high core counts
Data Centric: Durham COSMA
High core counts using high memory per core, high performance interconnect and I/O
Data Analytic: Cambridge HPCS
High performance interconnect and I/O range of processor technologies
Complexity: Leicester
Low core counts using high performance inteconnects high memory per node
Shared Memory: Cambridge COSMOS
Shared memory system with 14.8 TB RAM (decomissioned early 2018)

Access to DiRAC

Seedcorn Access
Small amounts of resource to test DiRAC facilities. Always available by contacting the DiRAC service.
Resource Allocation Committee (RAC)
Applications for large amounts of DiRAC resource for either 1 year (small projects) or 3 years (large projects).


Tier2: National Facilities

Nationally accessible, located across the UK

Intel Xeon Clusters

10,080 core Broadwell, FDR Infiniband Hypercube
HPC Midlands+
14,336 core Broadwell, 3:1 blocking EDR Infiniband (764 core non-blocking)
10 POWER8 per nodes with 1 TB memory
Cambridge CSD3
24,576 core Skylake, Intel Omnipath
Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub
17,280 core Broadwell, 3:1 blocking Intel Omnipath (864 core non-blocking)

Other architectures

22 Nvidia DGX-1: 2× Xeon + 8× Nvidia P100 GPGPU
Cambridge CSD3
90 nodes: Xeon + 4× Nvidia P100 GPGPU, EDR Infiniband
384 Xeon Phi nodes (96 GiB memory per node), Intel Omnipath
50 node Hadoop Cluster
10,000+ ARMv8 cores, Cray Aries Interconnect
  • Flexible HPC:
    • Traditional HPC
    • Task farming
    • Data science
    • 2× 16-core Xeon per node, 256 GiB memory
    • 10,080 cores (280 nodes)
  • Supported by EPCC experts:
    • Broad range of experience and expertise
    • Close links with ARCHER technical support
  • Wide range of supported software:
    • HPC applications: e.g. CASTEP, OpenFOAM, GROMACS
    • Data science software: e.g. Hadoop, Spark
    • Profiling and debugging tools
  • Customisable environment:
    • Singularity containers
    • Hosting of user-controlled virtual machines
  • EPCC benchmarking common applications across all Tier2 and ARCHER

Cirrus access overview

Scottish SeedcornAny
Instant AccessEPSRC
GrantAnyNotional cost for EPSRC
RAP: Open AccessEPSRC3 calls per year


Access to Tier2

Instant Access (EPSRC remit only)
Small amounts of resource to test Tier2 facilities
Available on Cirrus and CSD3
Scottish Seedcorn (Scottish institutions only)
Small amounts of resource to test Cirrus Tier2 facility
Resource Allocation Panel (RAP) (EPSRC remit only)
Applications for large amounts of Tier2 resource for 1 year
Grant Access
Add access costs to grant application (notional for EPSRC, real otherwise)
Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub
Access via Materials Chemistry (MCC) or UK Car-Parrinello (UKCP) consortia
HPC Midlands+
Cambridge CSD3
Materials and Molecular Modelling Hub

Other HPC Facilities

International Facilities

Large-scale European facilities
Number of different call types available
Access to the largest HPC facilities in the USA
Need to demonstrate need for extreme parallel scaling

Public Cloud

Microsoft offers HPC clusters within the Azure public cloud and plan to offer Cray supercomputer access.

  • Complex to setup at the moment
  • Cost per hour is more expensive than UK facilities
  • Can be extremely flexible and grow/shrink on-demand


Getting Advice


  • Helpdesks: ARCHER and Cirrus
    • Service focussed
    • Access to full range of EPCC expertise as required
  • Collaborative projects
    • Add EPCC staff to proposals
    • Use up small amounts of "left-over" money in existing grants
    • Co-supervise MSc projects
  • Training courses
  • Informal advice: always happy to chat to you!


From local HPC Champions

University of Aberdeen
Michael Chung, School of Natural and Computing Sciences
Naveed Khan, School of Natural and Computing Sciences
University of Edinburgh
Andy Turner, EPCC
Kenton d'Mellow, Edinburgh Compute and Data Facility
Douglas Houston, School of Biological Sciences
University of Strathclyde
Oliver Henrich, School of Physics
Karina Kubiak-Ossowska, School of Chemical and Process Engineering


Campaigning for the recognition of the RSE role, creating a community of RSE's and organising events for RSE's to meet, exchange knowledge and collaborate.

Join the community!



Test Access

Scottish Seedcorn: Access to Cirrus for any researcher based at Scottish institution

ARCHER Driving Test: Access to ARCHER for any researcher based at UK institution

Instant Access: Access to ARCHER, Cirrus, CSD3 for EPSRC-remit research

DiRAC Seedcorn: Access to DiRAC for STFC-remit research

Specific Calls for Compute Time

EPSRC RAP: Access to ARCHER and Tier2 for EPSRC-remit research

DiRAC RAC: Access to DiRAC for STFC-remit research

Access via grant proposals

ARCHER: any funding body possible - notional costs for EPSRC/NERC

Tier2: any funding body possible - notional costs for EPSRC

DiRAC: no time via grant applications - DiRAC RAC used instead

  • Wide range of HPC facilities available to UK researchers
  • Different access mechanisms for different research areas
    • Cirrus available to test for all Scottish researchers
  • EPCC can support your research in a number of ways - please get in touch!
  • HPC Champions and RSE network also available for help and support.