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Cosmologists turn to HPE to tackle some of humanity's toughest questions

By Sean Mitchell
Wed 29 Nov 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Stephen Hawkin’s COSMOS Research Group has turned to HPE to provide massive computing power.

The aim of the research is to understand the origins and structure of the universe. They are already leveraging the HPE Superdome Flex in-memory computing platform to search for clues hiding in massive data sets spanning 14 billion years of information that could unlock the secrets of the early universe and black holes.

“Our COSMOS group is working to understand how space and time work, from before the first trillion trillionths of a second after the Big Bang up to today,” said Professor Hawking, the Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research in Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. “The recent discovery of gravitational waves offers amazing insights about black holes and the whole Universe. With exciting new data like this, we need flexible and powerful computer systems to keep ahead so we can test our theories and explore new concepts in fundamental physics.”

The COSMOS supercomputing facility was formed in 1997 by a consortium of leading U.K. cosmologists brought together by Professor Hawking. 

“The influx of new data about the most extreme events in our Universe has led to dramatic progress in cosmology and relativity,” said Professor Paul Shellard, Director of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and head of the COSMOS group. “In a fast-moving field, we have the twofold challenge of analyzing larger data sets while matching their increasing precision with our theoretical models. In-memory computing allows us to ingest all of this data and act on it immediately, trying out new ideas, new algorithms. It accelerates time to solution and equips us with a powerful tool to probe the big questions about the origin of our Universe.”

The faculty now combines HPE Superdome Flex with an HPE Apollo supercomputer and Intel Xeon Phi systems. These are more specifically used to search for tiny signatures in huge data sets, such as gravitational waves, the cosmic microwave background, and the distribution of stars and galaxies.

The shared memory and single system design of HPE Superdome Flex enables researchers to solve complex, data-intensive problems holistically and reduces the burden on code developers, enabling users to find answers more quickly. 

“The in-memory computing capability of HPE Superdome Flex is uniquely suited to meet the needs of the COSMOS research group,” said Randy Meyer, vice president and general manager, Synergy & Mission Critical Servers, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “The platform will enable the research team to analyze huge data sets and in real time. This means they will be able to find answers faster.”

“We are pleased to be partnering with HPE by now offering these unique computing capabilities across the whole Cambridge Faculty of Mathematics,” said Professor Nigel Peake, Head of the Cambridge Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. “High-performance computing has become the third pillar of research, and we look forward to new developments across the mathematical sciences in areas as diverse as ocean modelling, medical imaging and the physics of soft matter.”

“The HPE Superdome Flex is the world’s most scalable and modular in-memory computing platform. Designed leveraging principles of Memory-Driven Computing, HPE Superdome Flex can scale from 4 to 32 sockets and 768GB to 48TB of shared memory in a single system, delivering unmatched compute power for the most demanding applications.” says HPE.

You can find out more in the video below: 

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