Bristol is to get a new supercomputer with over 80,000 processor cores, its first built by supercomputing experts Cray.

“It was paramount to select a technology partner at the forefront of high performance computing”


The Cray CS400 currently being installed at the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) on the Bristol & Bath Science Park will provide more than five times the existing IBM machine to give faster response times to tricky problems.

“With modelling and simulation at the core of product development, providing a technology platform that enables rapid innovation and supports the acceleration of engineering design capability is central to our vision,” says Sam Paice, Chief Operating Officer at CFMS. “It was paramount to select a technology partner at the forefront of high performance computing, and with whom we can develop a collaborative partnership beyond the technology, and support our strategic vision”.

The Cray system replaces an IBM iDataplex supercomputer which will gradually be decommissioned with parts being used to create a separate, smaller high performance computing cluster.

Supercomputing stats

cray_supercomputing_heroThe supercomputer has an impressive total of 3,392 processor cores, provided by Intel, with over six terabytes of memory to tackle complex simulation problems. 128 standard compute nodes each have 24 2.4GHz processor cores and 128 Gbytes of memory for the main applications such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Then there are 20 high memory nodes which is useful for applications such as Finite Element Analysis or Electromagnetics simulation which each have 12 cores running at 2.2GHz with 512Gbytes.

Alongside the these are the GPU nodes which are used for highly parallel applications as well as for rendering and visualisation. These eight GPU nodes each have 10 processor cores at 2.4GHz with 64Gbytes of RAM and each node has two Tesla K80 processors from NVIDIA. These have nearly 5000 cores on each chip, bringing the total processing capability to over 83,000 cores. A resource manager manages the submission of jobs to the appropriate nodes so any one job isn’t applied across two types of node.

Installing the Cray CS400 supercomputer at CFMS

 What’s in the box? Installing the Cray CS400
supercomputer at CFMS

“We evaluated a range of technologies during the procurement process,” said Nathan Harper, Head of IT Systems and HPC, who led the selection process. “The new system will provide significant speed and performance benefits for organisations that use computer aided design, and through Cray we have access to an interesting selection of technologies, providing us with flexibility and dependability.”

One of the key factors was the ability to add to the system and work with Cray more closely in the future. Cray opened its European research centre in the city last year after buying supercomputer chip designer Gnodal.

“Supercomputing plays a vital role in the manufacturing process”


“Supercomputing plays a vital role in the manufacturing process, and we are honoured that the Centre for Modelling & Simulation selected a Cray CS400 system to provide the computational resources for its user community,” said Dominik Ulmer, Cray’s vice president of operations for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. “This contract has added significance for Cray as Bristol is the home of our EMEA headquarters, and we look forward to working with such a strong organization that we also share this great city with.”

The CS400 cluster supercomputer uses the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600v v4 product family, formerly codenamed “Broadwell”, which is built on a 14nm process and can have up to 44 cores in a single chip. All the storage is  provided by ArcaStream. The Tesla processors have two banks of 2496 cores, each bank with 12Gbits of high speed video memory.

CFMS is an independent and not-for-profit organisation was founded in 2007 by a consortium, led by Airbus, including BAE Systems, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, MBDA, Rolls-Royce and Williams.

Access to the current and new system is open to all companies including small ones, and to mark the launch of the new supercomputing facilities at CFMS, an opening ceremony will be held later this summer when the system has been fully tested.

You can see more at the CFMS website and keep up to date with its developments by following them on Twitter: @CFMSuk.

Nick Flaherty