Oxford research boosted by supercomputer

The University of Oxford is using a new high performance cluster or ‘supercomputer’ to support more than 100 researchers

The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics [WTCHG], a research institute of the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, is an international leader in genomics, statistical genetics and structural biology. Its researchers collaborate with other research teams from across the world on a number of large-scale studies. Its research budget from competitively-won grants is close to £20m annually, and it publishes around 300 primary papers each year. 

Genetics projects at WTCHG include national and international studies on various cancers, type-2 diabetes, malaria and analyses of bacterial genomes to trace the spread of infection. It also led the statistical analysis of the genetic make-up of the British population that recently received widespread media coverage.

However, research never stands still and the Centre’s new supercomputer, built using Fujitsu, Mellanox and DDN technology, provides a 2.6x performance increase over its predecessor built in 2011. The new system is working alongside its predecessor, sharing a high-speed network to a big-data storage system. This integrated infrastructure was designed by WTCHG in partnership with OCF, a leading high-performance computing, data management, big-data storage and analytics provider.

Dr Robert Esnouf, Head of the Research Computing Core at WTCHG says: “We have learned from past experience that we need to tailor our compute hardware to give us an edge in ‘all-against-all’ analyses of hundreds of genomes: lining up multiple genomes against each other and using sophisticated statistics to compare them and spot differences that might explain the genetic origin of diseases or susceptibility to diseases.

Compared to this time last year, our researchers can put through around 5x more work and are doing so on a machine with the same energy footprint.

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