Centre for Theoretical Cosmology News

CTC receives HPCwire Award at Supercomputing 2015 in Austin, Texas

The Stephen Hawking Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (CTC) at the University of Cambridge has been recognized in the annual HPCwire Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards, with the following honour:

 • Readers' Choice: Best Use of High Performance Data Analytics

CTC operates the COSMOS hybrid shared-memory supercomputer (www.cosmos.damtp.cam.ac.uk), the largest shared-memory computer in Europe, which in 2014 was awarded the status of Intel Parallel Computing Centre (IPCC). The award was for the impressive many-core acceleration of the MODAL analysis pipeline which offered new statistical insights from the Cosmic Microwave Background as observed by the ESA Planck Satellite. More information about the HPCwire awards can be found here:



The Readers’ Choice award was presented at the 2015 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC15), in Austin, Texas. These coveted annual HPCwire Awards are determined through a nomination and voting process with the global HPCwire community, as well as selections from the HPCwire editors. The awards are an annual feature of the publication and constitute prestigious recognition from the HPC community. They are revealed each year to kick off the annual supercomputing conference.

Please find below the video link to the Opening Plenary Session at SC’15 where Intel’s Senior Vice President, Diane Bryant, highlights work with CTC and the HPCwire award (starts at 4:00 minutes in):



Skype presentation of the HPCwire award at SC'15 by Ron Tabor, CEO of HPCwire (centre right), with James Briggs, Juha Jäykkä and Paul Shellard (CTC) on the laptop, together with John Pennycook (Intel), Mark Wilkinson (DiRAC) and Simon Appleby (SGI).

Professor Paul Shellard, CTC Director said: “We are thrilled at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and COSMOS IPCC to have received this international award in high performance computing. It is recognition of a unique synergy that we have developed between world-leading researchers from the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility and industry-leading vendors like Intel and SGI which aims to get maximum impact from new many-core technologies for our data analytic pipelines. Dramatic speed-ups have been achieved for our Planck satellite analysis and other codes through a potent combination of new parallel programming paradigms and architectural co-design; these capabilities are opening up new windows on our Universe.”

For many years, STFC-funded scientists in Cambridge have operated COSMOS supercomputer systems with unique shared-memory capabilities in a longstanding collaboration with SGI, together with innovative new processor technology from Intel. In 2014, the CTC with COSMOS was named an Intel Parallel Computing Center focusing on Xeon Phi porting and optimization efforts on their unique hybrid UV2000 system co-designed for many-core acceleration with SGI. This IPCC support coincided with Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) measurements by the Planck satellite which provided the first high resolution temperature and polarization maps of the entire sky. The COSMOS IPCC team adapted the main workhorse non-Gaussian statistical correlation code, MODAL, which is designed to analyze very small CMB fluctuations in the Planck data; it aims to provide insight into new physics theories about how structures formed in the Universe. This is a computationally daunting task and a complete analysis for three-point correlations would have taken unfeasibly long to perform even on the largest supercomputers available to the researchers. The use of the hybrid UV2000 + Xeon Phi system, combined with the optimization and modernization effort of the COSMOS IPCC team, resulted in runtimes being cut by a factor 1/100-1/1000 which meant we could meet the tight ESA timescales available for the analysis.


James Briggs being presented the award by Professor Tony Hey, Chief Data Scientist at the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

DiRAC is the integrated supercomputing facility for HPC-based research in particle physics, astronomy and cosmology, areas in which the UK is world-leading. Supported by the UK Government’s Large Facilities Capital Fund since 2009, the Science and Technology Facilities Council has invested in innovative DiRAC systems which match machine architecture to the requirements and algorithm design of the research problems to be solved. For the COSMOS supercomputer in Cambridge, DiRAC has worked with Intel and SGI to build a data analytics system based on heterogeneous CPU architectures, giving access to more efficient and powerful many-core Intel Xeon Phi chips. The flexible capability to offload detailed analysis functions to faster processors as and when needed greatly decreases the time needed to produce results. These developments offer a hardware and software blueprint for future systems for the detailed analysis of a wide range of datasets.

Tom Tabor, CEO of Tabor Communications, publisher of HPCwire, said “HPCwire readers are among the most informed in the HPC community and these awards are ultimately given to the organizations that are making the greatest impact in advancing technology and humanity itself through high performance computing. The HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards send a strong message of support and appreciation from those in the global HPC community. We are proud to be able to recognize these efforts each your and our congratulations go out to all the winners.”

Further highlights from Supercomputing 2015

Other work by the COSMOS IPCC team from CTC is being highlighted on the SGI and Intel booths at SC’15. The team are working with Intel on the ray-tracing visualization package OSPRay with demonstrations of realtime visualizations of a huge 10TB dataset on an SGI UV system. These are the largest cosmic wall simulations ever performed with evolution beginning 200,000 years after the Big Bang and finishing today, some 14 billion years later; the aim is to determine the observable implications of walls for the cosmic microwave background. Their work with Intel on OSPray was also demonstrated at ISC’15 in Frankfurt.


Paul Shellard, James Fergusson, James Briggs and Juha Jäykkä at a ceremony in the CTC Common Room to mark the award.