Why Cray, the supercomputing expert, has set up its new R&D Lab in Bristol

Supercomputing company joins other multinational tech giants in locating to the South West
20th November 2015

Bristol is continuing to attract big tech players and strengthening its position as a hub for world-class, high-tech innovation: Cray, the US giant that designs, manufactures, sells and supports very advanced supercomputer systems, has recently chosen Bristol to set up its European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) R&D lab.

We caught up with Dominik Ulmer, Vice President of EMEA Business Operations and Tony Ford, Director of Engineering at HPCS R&D to find out more about the decision to set up the company’s headquarters in Bristol.

Domink UlmerCray offers many services so the need to stay at the cutting-edge of supercomputing research is important: “Our portfolio is focused on supercomputing and analytics for big and fast data, we provide computing, storage and analytics hardware and software,” explains Dominik (pictured left).

“We also work with strong partners both in hardware and software applications for different vertical sectors, for instance manufacturing, automotive industry, financial services, energy, life science and pharmaceutical, so our customers can benefit from a complete solution from us.”

“Cray EMEA Research Lab works on collaborative projects with customers in the field for better understanding their future directions and requirements”

 

The new R&D team in Bristol forms one half of Cray’s EMEA headquarters at Broad Quay House in Bristol; the other half is in the US. The Bristol-based R&D team will work in conjunction with the US team in delivering service, support and administrative functions.

Tony-Ford“The Bristol R&D team also works together with the Cray EMEA Research Lab, CERL,” says Tony (pictured right). “CERL works on collaborative projects with customers in the field for better understanding their future directions and requirements.”

“Gnodal was a Bristol-based start-up, that counted a group of engineers with a long expertise in high performance computing interconnects”

 

The move, that adds another string to Bristol’s tech-innovation bow, was made after Cray acquired staff from the Bristol-based start-up and computer specialist Gnodal. “In November 2013 Cray acquired the vast majority of staff of Gnodal, including Tony,” explains Dominik. “Gnodal was a Bristol-based startup, that counted a group of engineers with a long expertise in high performance computing interconnects. As a result Cray, in a fell swoop, doubled the size of its R&D staff in Europe and Bristol became Cray’s largest office in Europe.”

Engineering excellence

The new Bristol Headquarters that opened earlier in June this year provides Cray with a regional centre for its expanding team, with a laboratory, meeting and training facilities for its EMEA customers. Being in Bristol, Cray also hopes to utilise the vast engineering talent that the area has to offer and to expand the Cray EMEA Research Lab (CERL).

The CERL lab will provide a single point of contact and a pooling of expertise for deep technical collaborations with Cray’s key customers and partners, and it will also be the company’s main interface to European development and research programmes, such as Horizon 2020 and the FET Flagship Initiatives.

“Cray EMEA Research Lab will be 100% focused on collaborative R&D and co-design efforts”

 

“The CERL will be 100 per cent focused on collaborative R&D and co-design efforts,” says Dominic. “For a number of years now we have become more and more involved in working on very specific projects with our EMEA customers, with dedicated staff at the Centres of Excellence in Edinburgh, Stuttgart and Saudi Arabia.

“In addition, we have been recently involved in two co-design projects hosted by the Jülich Supercomputing Centre in Germany: The Human Brain Project’s pre-commercial procurement and the QPACE4 programme to investigate the feasibility of ARM-based supercomputers.”

“Each euro invested in HPC on average returned €867 in increased revenue/income

 

Europe/EMEA is the second largest high-performance computing (HPC) economy in the world, and the European Commission has announced further information on the allocated €700 million to be given to HPC research. “Studies show that for European HPC projects the return on investments is excellent,” says Dominik. “An IDC study on 143 of European HPC projects found that each euro invested in HPC on average returned €867 in increased revenue/income.

XC40-AC-Supercomputer_580

One of Cray’s recent successes: Winning a contract
to provide an XC40 supercomputer to the Swiss National
Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) in Lugano

 

“And in a global IDC study, 97 per cent of companies that had adopted HPC said they could no longer compete or survive without it. As one of our customers in Energy and Gas said recently, ‘To out-compute is to out-compete’.”

Big data projects

One example of Cray’s work, that is closely linked to CERL, is its collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute (ATI); a joint venture between Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick, UCL and EPSRC Universities.

“Back in August we announced that Cray will work together with EPSRC, which with NERC funded ARCHER, a Cray system and the latest UK National Supercomputing Service, specifically on future technology requirements to help co-design future generations of big data systems and help the adoption of these technologies across industry and UK Government partners,” explains Dominik.

“Due to our history in the Bristol area as Gnodal and previously Quadrics, we maintain many close personal relationships with the technology industry of the region”

 

Other tech companies in the South West will benefit from Cray being based in Bristol: Intel, Nvidia, ARM, Seagate, Samsung, and Cloudera are just a few of the companies that Cray is helping to support. “Due to our history in the Bristol area as Gnodal and previously Quadrics, we maintain many close personal relationships with the technology industry of the region, says Tony. “We are of course already leveraging this advantage in our daily work on leading edge HPC technologies.”

Cray is the most recent leading global company to set up a base of operations in Bristol, joining other giants like Just Eat and Somo.

Click on the following link to find out more about Cray and high-performance computing.