WHAT IS DiRAC?
DiRAC was established to provide distributed High Performance Computing (HPC) services to the STFC theory community. HPC-based modelling is an essential tool for the exploitation and interpretation of observational and experimental data generated by astronomy and particle physics facilities support by STFC as this technology allows scientists to test their theories and run simulations from the data gathered in experiments. The UK has an extremely strong HPC community and these powerful computing facilities allow the UK science community to pursue cutting-edge research on a broad range of topics, from simulating the entire evolution of the universe, from the big bang to the present, to modelling the fundamental structure of matter. DiRAC is both an academic-led and an academic-supervised facility and our systems are specifically designed to meet the different high performance computational needs within our scientific community.
DiRAC provides a variety of compute Resources that match machine architecture to the different algorithm design and requirements of the research problems to be solved. There are sound scientific reasons for designing the DiRAC services in this way and the methodology was adopted following a number of in-depth reviews involving the STFC research community. The bespoke demands of the different research domains supported by STFC are such that a distributed installation was the most cost effective way to satisfy the varied scientific requirements.
As a single, federated Facility, DiRAC allows more effective and efficient use of computing resources, supporting the delivery of the science programmes across the STFC research communities, addressing all the STFC Science Challenges. It provides a common training and consultation framework and, crucially, provides critical mass and a coordinating structure for both
small and large scale cross-discipline science projects the technical support needed to run and develop a distributed HPC service, and a pool of expertise to support knowledge transfer and industrial partnership projects. The on-going development and sharing of best-practice for the delivery of productive, national HPC services within DiRAC enables STFC researchers to deliver world-leading science across the entire STFC theory programme in particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology, solar system physics, particle astrophysics and nuclear physics.
As was originally envisaged, DiRAC has become a vibrant research space, both in terms of Science and in terms of technical development. These two aspects of our activities are intimately linked with each feeding back into the other and driving research excellence in theoretical simulation and modelling alongside world-leading technical innovation. DiRAC’s technical achievements are as important as our scientific achievements; they are key to our scientific impact and key to our impact on the UK Economy as a whole.