British academics access fast supercomputers

A £26 million computing service will give academics in the UK access to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers that are capable of performing 700 billion calculations a second.

The new research computing service – the Computer Services for Academic Research (CSAR) – is based around a Cray T3E-120E machine with 576 processors – making it the most powerful supercomputer available anywhere in the world for open academic research. Not only will academic researchers have access to the computer, they will, in addition, have access to other services, such as support, data storage, training facilities and access to further computer platforms at the leading edge of technology.

The contract for the CSAR service was the first of this type of contract to be established as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) arranged through the government’s Science Budget. The negotiations for the new service were led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, on behalf of all the participating Research Councils.

Opening the service was Lord Sainsbury, who commented: `The introduction of this important service gives academics in UK universities the opportunity to use one of the most powerful computers for world class research into some of the most important and exciting scientific challenges. I am pleased that the project is the first of its kind under the Private Finance Initiative. It will give the Research Councils access to a high-quality, flexible service with responsibility for ownership, upgrading and maintenance being managed by the private sector.’