U.K.'s fastest supercomputer unveiled

Hector handles 63 trillion calculations per second, the equivalent processing power of 12,000 desktops. But it can't touch Blue Gene/L.

The largest and most advanced supercomputer in the U.K. has been unveiled in Edinburgh.

Hector--or the High-End Computing Terascale Resource--can handle 63 trillion calculations per second, which is the equivalent processing power of 12,000 desktop systems and four times faster than its predecessor. The amount of calculations the system can handle is equivalent to every person on earth simultaneously carrying out 10,000 calculations per second.

The supercomputer is based at the University of Edinburgh's Advanced Computer Facility near the Scottish capital and will cost $221.3 million (113 million pounds) over six years. The facility will be operated by the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Center (EPCC).

The EPCC claims Hector will take high performance supercomputing up "another gear" and will play a key role in allowing scientists to be at the forefront of research.

Work due to be carried out using Hector includes forecasting the impact of climate change, projecting the spread of disease epidemics, and developing new medicines.

Hector uses a Cray XT4 system with software and application support provided by Numerical Algorithms Group.

At present, the supercomputer has a peak capability of 63 teraflops, but this is due to increase to 250 teraflops in October 2009, with a further upgrade due two years later.

The procurement was managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council on behalf of U.K. Research Councils with some of the money coming from the Department of Innovation, Universities, and Skills.

EPCC also runs a green supercomputer called Maxwell--unveiled early in 2007--which is 10 times more energy efficient than traditional equivalents.

Despite its vast power, it falls short of the world's fastest computer, Blue Gene/L, which can reach speeds of 478 teraflops.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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