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UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment Buys 7 Petaflop Cray Supercomputer

The UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), which looks after warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident, is buying a new seven petaflop Cray Shasta supercomputer, the HPE-owned company said late Tuesday. 

The AWE has selected a supercomputer built on second-generation AMD EPYC (7542) processors, HPE said, chosing it for its “ability to run mixed workloads and applications at the best total cost of ownership.” Terms were not disclosed.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment performs modelling on warhead behaviour “from the quantum scale, through microscale phenomena, to large-scale properties of materials”. It is also the UK’s centre of expertise for rendering improvised nuclear devices (INDs) safe, modelling radioactive plume dispersal and hazard prediction.

The new supercomputer, named Vulcan, is expected to have a performance of seven petaflops and include the Cray Slingshot interconnect, AMD EPYC 7542 processors and Cray ClusterStor Lustre storage, offering approximately 100 gigabytes per second of I/O performance, HPE said in another large-scale contract for the company.

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The computer’s firepower is dwarfed by Cray’s other latest nuclear-related contract win, which saw the company in August clinch a deal with the US’s Department of Energy to build the world’s most powerful supercomputer to-date: “El Capitan” will have a peak performance of over 1.5 exaflops, or 1.5 quintillion calculations per second.

It will go into production by late-2023 and be used to run simulations of nuclear weapon explosions “in the absence of underground testing.”

Read this: This New Supercomputer Will be the World’s Most Powerful; Will Simulate Nuclear Explosions

“High-performance computing is a critical aspect of AWE,” said Andy Herdman, head of HPC at AWE. “It underpins the vast majority of our science-based programs, and we’re continually looking for ways to enhance and support this important work.”

“We are incredibly proud to be chosen by AWE to support their important mission,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO at Cray.

He added: “Shasta will bring Exascale Era technologies to bear on AWE’s challenging modeling and simulation data-intensive workload and enable the convergence of AI and analytics into this same workload, on a single system.”

The contract is the latest in a string of wins for Cray, which was bought by HPE for $1.3 billion in cash on May 17, 2019. The company estimates a $5 billion exascale computing opportunity in the global HPC market over the next five years.

While contracted to the Ministry of Defence – with facilities in government ownership – management, day to day operations, and the maintenance of the nuclear stockpile is conducted by AWE, a consortium owned by Serco Group plc, the Lockheed Martin Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group.

See also: Met Office Publishes New Supercomputer Requirements, Inches Closer to Procurement

Top image shows HMS Vengeance – which carries the United Kingdom’s strategic nuclear deterrent – returning to HMNB Clyde, after completing Operational Sea Training. Credit: Robert Sullivan, “aeroman3“, Flickr. 

 
This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.

CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.