Named ‘Wilkes’ after computing pioneer Maurice Wilkes, the machine’s performance is equivalent to 4,000 desktop machines running at once. The computer will be used for development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – the biggest radio telescope ever made.
The new system has been rated second in the “Green 500” – a ranking of the most efficient supercomputers worldwide. While the first-placed machine, built by a team in Tokyo, used an oil-cooled system, Wilkes is cooled using air, making it the greenest machine of its kind.
Designed and built by the in-house engineering team within the Cambridge High Performance Computing Service, Wilkes’ energy efficiency is 3,361 Mega-flops per watt. Flops (floating point operations per second) are a standard measure of computing performance.
“Energy-efficiency is the biggest single challenge in supercomputing today and our new system makes an important step forward in this regard,” said Dr Paul Calleja, Director of the Cambridge High Performance Computing Service.
This is a huge, international effort to build the world’s largest telescope. By detecting radio waves with unprecedented sensitivity and fidelity, the facility has the potential to answer some essential questions about the Universe, such as what the nature of dark energy is, and perhaps the most fundamental question of all – are we alone?
Cambridge is leading the design of the computational platform within the SKA. ‘Wilkes’ will play an integral role in this design process.