Supporting the STFC Theory Community
The UK’s High Performance Super Computer facility for the the STFC Particle Physics, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Solar System and Planetary Science and Nuclear Physics theory community.
Established in 2009, DiRAC provides high performance computing (HPC) services to the UK’s Scientific Research Communities in theoretical cosmology, nuclear physics, astrophysics, particle physics, and solar and planetary science. DiRAC is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). To date, capital funding for DiRAC systems has been provided by The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (DBIS), The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and STFC. UKRI is now part of the Department of Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
We host three HPC services: the Extreme Scaling Service, the Memory Intensive Service, and the Data Intensive Service, with each tailored to the specific types of computational workflows needed to deliver our Science Programme. Innovation is a key part of DiRAC’s activities and all our services are co-designed in collaboration with the our research community, our technical and software engineering teams, and our vendor partners.
To ensure our users can exploit the full power of our HPC services, we offer a comprehensive training programme, including foundation and more advanced HPC training, arificial inteligence/machine learning (AI/ML) training, vendor sponsored events looking at specific technologies and an Innovation Placements which gives our users to opportunity to engage in industry collaborations.
The close involvement of our research community in the process of building our resources is key to the success of the DiRAC approach. Our scientists first lay out their science case, defining the key themes that need resources. From this, we develop a technical case quantifying the implied high-level computing requirements. In collaboration with our community and industry partners, we then undertake an extended co-design process to find the most cost-effective hardware solutions to support the workflows.
This robust 3-stage process leads to HPC resources at the bleeding-edge of innovation in both hardware and software, able to support the delivery of internationally leading scientific outputs, maintain the UK’s scientific productivity, competitiveness and leadership, and attract and retain the world’s best researchers.
DiRAC was established in 2009, with DiRAC-1 HPC resources hosted at 13 UK universities and used by 8 science consortia from across the STFC theory domain. In 2012, the more powerful internationally competitive DiRAC-2 services opened, consolidated into five HPC clusters at our four current sites: the University of Cambridge; Durham University; the University of Edinburgh; the University of Leicester. A unified management structure was also established and DiRAC was opened up to all STFC theory researchers via a competitive, peer-reviewed application process. DiRAC-3 Phase 1 was funded in 2020/21 by the UKRI World Class Laboratories fund which enabled a significant uplift in all our resources. DiRAC-3 Phase 2 was funded in 2022/23 allowing further upgrades at our Edinburgh and Durham services, with Phase 2 Cambridge and Leicester upgrades planned for 2023/24.
DiRAC facility activities span three core areas: Scientific Discovery; Investing in People; and Delivering UK-wide Innovation.
Scientific Discovery: Based on calculations performed using our resources, the STFC theory community publishes over 250 peer reviewed papers per year in the top international journals
Investing in People: We train more than 100 early career researchers in HPC skills annually, benefitting both the UKRI research community and the UK’s wider economy by contributing to closing the digital skills gap.
Delivering UK-wide Innovation: Innovation is at the heart of the DiRAC facility, enhancing our service provision for the UK’s world-leading STFC science theory programme and underpinning co-design relationships with our external partners.
DiRAC is also committed to reducing its environmental impact and has actively worked to monitor and improve our data centre energy efficiency for more than a decade.
DiRAC Project Office is proud to be hosted in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
University of Cambridge
DiRAC Intensive Service (DiAC) is hosted by Cambridge Research Computing Services (RSC), which offers a range of advanced platforms for computationally intensive research.
The Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) at Durham University hosts our Memory Intensive Service.
University of Leicester
The School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester hosts part of our Data Intensive Service (DIaL).
University of Edinburgh
DiRAC’s Extreme Scaling Service is hosted at the University of Edinburgh’s EPCC.