Since its inception in 2012, DiRAC has trained more than 100 students annually. Almost a quarter of these have graduate destinations in technical fields in the private sector, supporting companies in harnessing the power of HPC and contributing more than £50m to the UK Exchequer.
HPC is essential for studying complex biological structures such as viruses, allowing vaccines and drugs to be identified quickly. DiRAC supports consortia working on Covid-19: HEC BioSim, Scottish COVID-19 Response Consortium, JUNE modelling team, Folding@home, HPC Consortium. The development of the JUNE agent-based model by a team of 10 PhD students, postdocs and academic staff at Durham with two collaborators at UCL was supported by access to computing resources and staff effort from the DiRAC Memory Intensive service at Durham.
A DiRAC-supported Innovation Placement student, based at Guy's & St Thomas' Trust with the Palliative Care Team, used machine learning to develop an Advanced Care Planning model. It identified those at risk of serious decline, greatly improving the care of frail patients. A Neural Net was also developed to help administrative staff to identify palliative care patients requiring extra appointment reminders, reducing 'do not appear' rates, improving patient outcomes and saving the NHS money.
Exposure to solar storms would prove fatal to astronauts. DiRAC provides cutting-edge supercomputing systems which are enabling UK-led breakthroughs in solar weather forecasting, preparing for the safest approach to boundary-pushing space travel and exploration.
DiRAC simulations are used to interpret data from major international satellite missions, such as Planck and Gaia. There is a growing synergy between the methods used for real-time analysis of the outputs of large-scale simulations and the processing of satellite data streams.
DiRAC has a team of Research Software Engineers who work with scientists to ensure that their software can optimally exploit the computing power of the DiRAC supercomputers. Team members often move into roles within industry, helping companies to harness the power of HPC.
DiRAC deploys supercomputers at four universities: Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh and Leicester; the Project Office is at University College London. Technical teams at the four sites provide expert support to DiRAC users and work with industry partners of innovation projects.
The Data Accelerator in DiRAC’s Data Intensive Service uses flash storage to accelerate data-intensive workflows. Inspired and co-funded by DiRAC, and developed in collaboration with Dell-EMC, on deployment it was the world’s fastest storage system (IO500, June 2019).
The HPE/Arm/Suse “Catalyst UK” programme deployed an Arm-based HPC cluster within the DiRAC Data Intensive Service to drive the adoption of Arm processors in super-computing. To date, the system has supported research, user training and testing of system software.
The Memory Intensive system at Durham pioneered the use of a solid-state memory “burst-buffer”, dramatically reducing the time taken to save output data and increasing the effective computing power by around 13%. It is being used as a reference system by Dell-EMC.
Partnership between DiRAC and the Intel Pathfinding and Architecture Group has influenced the shape of future Intel HPC systems, including exascale hardware, novel network topologies and a patented new data format, bfloat16, for machine learning applications.
The DiRAC project office has supported nine STFC-funded Innovation Placements, which embed DiRAC students and post-doctoral researchers in external private and public sector partners to carry out projects in areas from computing hardware to NHS clinical care.
The Eagle simulation took 5 years of development but the returns were immense: it was one of the first simulations to produce a realistic population of galaxies in a full cosmological framework. It lead to the most cited paper in space science (out of 28,000) published in 2015.
DiRAC researchers support the application of artificial intelligence in new sectors including Government decision-making, planning and transportation. The Department of Work and Pensions are exploring the application of machine learning tools developed by DiRAC scientists, and a DiRAC innovation placement with Transport for London produced an algorithm to detect over-heating in Tube train axles.
National HPC services within DiRAC enables STFC researchers to deliver world-leading science in particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and nuclear physics. Since 2014, DiRAC researchers have published more than 1,220 papers which have been cited over 71,000 times.
A distributed, UK-wide supecomputing facility funded by STFC, UKRI and BEIS. Researchers use DiRAC to study black holes, galaxies and subatomic particles, to explore the demise of the dinosaurs, develop new tools to tackle Corona virus, and harness artificial intelligence.
DiRAC's programme of innovation and industrial engagement has led to numerous highly successful industrial collaborations over the last decade. DiRAC's reputation for creating and disseminating leading-edge technology across the UK attracts repeat industrial investment and drives new partnership activities.