Will Hector save our world?


Britain’s most powerful super computer has received a £52m boost from the government. When it is built in 2007, the high spec number cruncher will be faster than any in Europe.

The High-End Computing Terascale Resource, or Hector as it is known, will be owned by the Research Councils of the UK. It will be used by scientists to simulate everything from climate change to atomic structures. The new supercomputer could run at speeds of up to 100 teraflops and will be able to carry out up to 100 trillion calculations every second, 100,000 times faster than an ordinary computer.

Cray UK Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cray (Seattle), has signed contracts with UoE HPCX Ltd. and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to provide a massively parallel processing (MPP) hybrid supercomputer that will become one of the most powerful computing systems in the world. However, even the combined power of the new computers will be no match for IBM’s Blue Gene/L. This worldbeater is able to perform a staggering 280.6 trillion calculations per second. The computer has more than 130,000 processors and is installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

“The challenge of a big system like Hector is being able to utilise its full capability” says Jennifer Houghton, project manager of Hector. Some of the funds being put into the new system will therefore go into training scientists and programmers to unlock this potential.

Let’s hope they’re not too long in utilizing Hector’s full capacity, especially if new and more accurate climate change modeling can spur those governments dragging their feet into action.

Just one thing; all that juice needed to power Hector’s central nervous system. Somehow I doubt it will be a wind turbine doing the honours. 🙂

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5 Responses to Will Hector save our world?

  1. keithsc says:

    But can it beat the new computer chess wizard – a 10 year old. See http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=3655

  2. Pete Smith says:

    Just one thing; all that juice needed to power Hector’s central nervous system. Somehow I doubt it will be a wind turbine doing the honours.

    You might be surprised, I know I was. After ploughing through the project status report and the hardware specs, it looks as if the Phase 1 configuration will have a power requirement of around 1 megawatt. So, well within the reach of a wind turbine or two plus a suitable UPS. Theoretically 😎

  3. matt says:

    Arh, wouldn’t it be nice to be pleasantly surprised for a change. 😉

  4. PHIL says:

    You know, the other day I remembered the first time that I heard people talking about climate change.
    It was around 1962 and I was in my grandmother’s living room:- 16 Club Row, Blaenllechau, South Wales. Old Mrs Wiltshire and Mrs Williams had popped around for a cup of tea and a Welshcake. All three of them were well in to their eighties at the time.
    They spoke of the way the weather was changing…..how Winters weren’t so cold and how Summers lasted longer and were warmer. I suppose, at the time, they could make comparrisons right back before the turn of the century…..1800s to 1900s that is.
    Who was to blame ? They put it down to the rockets that the USSR and the USA were starting to launch into space at the time.

    I suppose they might have been a bit off the mark on cause, but were right there with the best on effect.

  5. Pete Smith says:

    Nice story Phil. All we need to do is translate all that accumulated anecdotal evidence into data and HECTOR will really have something to chew on 😎

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