Durham University can now simulate the Universe and galaxies, including the Milky Way, with increasing levels of sophistication using a new powerful, eco-friendly server and storage cluster built and managed by OCF, dubbed the ‘Cosmology machine’, in its fourth generation, COSMA4 for short. Eventually, the cluster will enable researchers to simulate finer and finer components of the Universe such as galaxies, stars and even planets.

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The world leading Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) based at Durham University believes that using supercomputer technology has changed the way we do Science.  It has opened up new methods of looking at the Universe, as supercomputers are now capable of solving equations in the biggest possible context - the context of the universe as a whole.

“Unlike other sciences it is very difficult to ‘test’ theories on the Universe,” said Professor Frenk, Director of the ICC, Durham University. “Brain power alone is not enough to calculate the complex algorithms. However, our new server and storage cluster does enable us to experiment with the Universe and answer fundamental questions that we all have about our cosmic environment, how does gravity operate and how does the Universe expand, for example.

“We have never been limited by imagination and now our processing power limitations are being removed too. The prospects seem unlimited and perhaps one day a successor of COSMA4 may simulate people and, why not, even human minds.”

The server and storage cluster serves around 20 core users; although up to 100 have registered access. It delivers a peak performance of 25 TeraFlops, 7 times faster than the previous server and storage cluster (COSMA3) and 50 times faster than COSMA2, which is now decommissioned. Despite a massive increase in processing power, the eco-friendly machine uses the same amount of energy as COSMA2. Plus, due to eco-friendly credentials of the IBM iDataPlex hardware and Intel processors, the University has been able to remove three air-conditioning units from the data centre, reducing overall data centre energy consumption by 60kw. Measurements show an air temperature of 21-22 degrees at the front of the server cluster, with just 18 degrees at the rear, further demonstrating its in-built air-cooling, eco-friendly capabilities.  The server cluster is also currently running at 91 per cent efficiency (measured using the Linpack benchmark) and has an energy efficiency of over 400 Megaflops per watt of energy consumed.  This level of energy efficiency is equivalent to the 19th most energy efficient system on the current Green500 List and higher energy efficiency translates into lower electrical power consumption for a given level of supercompute performance.