11 Jun 2020

The UK Innovation Corridor's connection to high performance computing

The Innovation Corridor is home to some of the largest research facilities in the UK with a number of research campuses developed over the last 30 years. Enterprise research teams are now located alongside the publicly funded institutions such as Cambridge University, The Wellcome Trust, Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI. Growth in this region has outpaced all other areas across the UK over the last decade with businesses collectively turning over £121 billion a year. Globally prominent as a region for invention and enterprise, there are more patents per capita in the UK Innovation Corridor than Silicon Valley.

It is also one of the best connected regions of the UK. The fibre links between Cambridge and London include some of the most extensive dark fibre infrastructure and lit services in the country. With up to 100 Gig high speed connectivity available, this is an ideal foundation for technology like high performance computing (HPC) to thrive.

Research conducted within the Innovation Corridor is set to grow exponentially over both the short term due to coronavirus research and the long term as part of the current research drive to exascale. As organisations recognise that supercomputing computations are becoming an even more important scientific tool, they are challenged to source suitable facilities for power hungry HPC clusters and GPU-powered AI installations. One of the other challenges they face is in connectivity.

Traditionally, data has sat on the same campus where research is conducted. As the complexity and power requirements of the compute grows, the current model becomes unsustainable. The drive to exascale is testing the limits of the infrastructure that currently exists and prompting a review of physical infrastructure needs. The challenge comes in enabling connectivity where the production happens with the location where HPC clusters reside at a reasonable cost. Access to high bandwidth connectivity becomes a greater priority to ensure researchers can access HPC clusters at industrial scale without noticing performance delays.

Kao Data’s campus in Harlow is located in the heart of the Innovation Corridor and built on the site of Sir Charles Kao’s pioneering discovery of fibre optic cable in 1966. The data centre is positioned within the new North London Artery and provisioned with high-density, ultra-low latency fibre routes that connect to London, Amsterdam and Dublin. As part of euNetworks’ Super Highway 1, the campus is also in a unique position of connecting London to Amsterdam and vice versa without going inside the M25 - a built in redundancy feature that avoids a single point of failure risk associated with London as the major UK connectivity hub.

We are also building partnerships to provide the right connectivity, regardless of your type of HPC compute. Kao Data’s partnership with Ai Networks and London Internet Exchange (LINX) provides peering through the LINX network and offers access to over 820 member ASN’s from over 75 countries. Providers like CenturyLink enable high fibre count connectivity providing a fast and easy route to scale up data transport requirements. Once an HPC cluster is located in the data centre, Kao Data provides an “on ramp” to multi-cloud connectivity that gives our customers flexibility between their campus, infrastructure in our data centre and workloads in the cloud to ramp up HPC workloads as needed.

In order to continue leading research in their fields of expertise and ensuring the UK is at the forefront of the global research community, super fast, secure connectivity is going to be essential. Kao Data is providing data centre solutions that enable our customers to spend their research funding from government and charity grants on lab equipment, staff vs building out data centre infrastructure on their campus. Our commitment to delivering low-latency, high-speed and resilient connectivity solutions to our customers will help fuel the next generation of breakthrough research.

Spencer Lamb

Spencer Lamb is Vice President at Kao Data and an experienced figure within the industry. He has a keen interest in HPC, AI and hyperscale computing.



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