Connected - October 2009
A new successor to LUCIFER
It has been over 50 years since the University of Leeds purchased its first research computer system - LUCIFER - short for Leeds University Computing Installation (Ferranti). (For more on the original LUCIFER service, see http://reporter.leeds.ac.uk/press_releases/current/computing_jubilee.htm)
Now, in a dedicated computer room on the north side of campus, ARC1, the latest in a long line of successors to LUCIFER is being built.
Unlike any of its predecessors ARC1 will be funded centrally and will be available to researchers in every school in every faculty. One million pounds has been allocated to buy a Sun 'Constellation' system, to be supplied by Esteem Systems and run by the Central IT service.
The core of the new system is the equivalent of nearly 2000 desktop computers and over 100 Terabytes of disk space packed into 6 racks, each of which is the size of a tall filing cabinet.
Packing computers together brings advantages: problems that would be too big for an individual machine can solved by a network of many machines working together.
Special scheduling software will ensure that researchers can submit work to the system at any time and it will be done whenever a suitable slot becomes available.
But putting so much compute power in one place does require large amounts of electricity, both to run the equipment and the air conditioning that takes away the heat it generates.
This is why the system is being delivered in two stages: the first quarter of the system is here. It is cool enough to work with our current air conditioning but big enough to perform around three times the work of Everest, the current High Performance Computer.
In 2010 - after a new water-cooling system has been installed - the remaining three quarters of the system will arrive, and boost the capacity fourfold.