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High Performance Computing (HPC) at Bath


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What is HPC?

High Performance Computing is a term referring to a computational activity which requires multiple computers to perform the task. HPC clusters allows scientific researchers and engineers to solve large, advanced, complex computational problems which are too big for a single machine to compute. This is achieved by dividing up the task into smaller, more manageable sized tasks and sharing these concurrently across multiple computers (parallel computing). HPC clusters have the ability to handle and analyse massive amount of data over high speed networks, this can dramatically decrease the time needed to analyse such data.

Other similar, related terms are 'supercomputing' and 'scientific computing'.  At Bath, you may also hear the current centrally maintained cluster referred to by its name, 'Balena'.

A high performance computer such as Balena may take a number of different forms.  Some of you may have heard of the more custom machine makes such as Cray.  More commonly these days, we find that our machines are a type of cluster (eg a Beowulf), running a version of the Linux operating system.  More than 90% of the machines in the Top 500 list are of this type, as is ours.

Who can use HPC?

The HPC is provided for the use of researchers at the University of Bath, although to a lesser degree it is also used for teaching.

What can it be used for?

There are many uses of HPC, depending on whether you simply want to get through a lot of data (capacity computing) or need something with a lot of power to get things done in a reasonable amount of time (capability computing).  Our users run a variety of programs on the central machine, working on a range of problems including but not limited to meteorological simulations, molecular interaction simulations, X-ray crystallography, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and large-scale statistical analyses,

What are the benefits?

How do I get access to it?

Contact your departmental HPC Champion, who will be able to talk to you about the HPC and give you access to the low-priority free queue so that you can have a look around.  After that, if you find that you need resources you may want to consider paying for access to the higher priority queues, which allow larger and longer-running jobs.  If you decide that you need to do this, you should contact the HPC support team.

How do I log in?

Access to the HPC is via SSH. More details in how to log in and get started are available in the HPC Wiki.

HPC service options

The Balena HPC cluster offers a restricted, free-at-the-point-of-use service which is available to all researchers and members of academic staff. We also offer a premium, share-based service which allows for a greater range of jobs to run on the cluster.  If you wish to find out more details about the premium service please contact the HPC support team for more information.

Where can I get help?

There is some information on the wiki about using the HPC and a small support team who are best contacted by email.