Two new supercomputers strengthen important research
4 April 2017
Bianca and Rackham are two new supercomputers that were inaugurated at Uppsala University’s UPPMAX on 24 April. They are both unique in different ways and together they enable new, cutting-edge research in fields such as bioinformatics and materials science.
UPPMAX (Uppsala Multidisciplinary Centre for Advanced Computational Science) at Uppsala University is one of six national centres that make up the SNIC (Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing) and gives researchers in Uppsala and Sweden access to processing power and advanced user support to meet their computing needs. Two new supercomputers are now being inaugurated; Bianca and Rackham (the centre’s computer systems are named after Tintin characters) are both special in different ways.
Bianca is Sweden’s first computer system for secure processing of large-scale sensitive data. Bianca will primarily be used to analyse human genomic (DNA) data. It is therefore important that storage and handling of data is done in such a way that no third party can get access to it. New technical solutions have been developed and licenses have been produced which regulate the use of data in accordance with the Swedish Personal Data Act. Bianca is part of a larger project, SNIC SENS, with funding from the Swedish Research Council and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
Rackham is Uppsala University’s largest computer system to date, with more than 6,000 processing cores. Rackham is roughly ten times more powerful than its predecessor, Tintin, which was closed down 1 March. The new system also has twice as much memory per processing core, and is connected to a very fast storage system, which makes it perfect for memory and data intensive calculations.
“Together the two new supercomputers provide even greater opportunities for cutting-edge research in bioinformatics, materials science and many other fields where computer simulations and data analyses are cornerstones,” says Elisabeth Larsson, Director of UPPMAX.
A large number of research teams, both at Uppsala University and elsewhere, use UPPMAX’s computer systems. At the start of 2017, UPPMAX had more than 1,100 active users. A large proportion of research conducted here is in bioinformatics. For example, genetic information is studied both at the individual level and at population level to find out more about how our genes affect properties in individuals, relate to different diseases and change over time and space.
Another leading field at Uppsala University which requires large processing resources is materials science, where materials’ properties are simulated at the molecular level, which requires great computing power due to the large number of atoms and molecules being modelled. This type of simulation is also performed to study proteins and the function and structure of biological molecules.