HPE’s new supercomputer will be used by Stephen Hawking’s research group to crunch 14 billion years of information

  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will supply the the University of Cambridge Mathematics department, Stephen Hawking’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (COSMOS), with its fancy new supercomputer called the HPE Superdome Flex.
  • The supercomputer will be joining other supercomputers in the COSMOS facility to study 14 billion years worth of data gathered by COSMOS to study the origins of the universe, the phenomenon of black holes and decipher the nature of space and time.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has a famous customer for its new flagship supercomputer: Stephen Hawking’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (COSMOS). The new computer will be helping Hawking’s institute unlock the mysteries of the universe, HPE says.

HPE’s new Superdome Flex is a different kind of computer that puts a mind-boggling amount of data into high-speed memory – it can hold up to 48 terabytes of data. Putting that information into memory, rather than keeping it in traditional storage systems, lets the machine crunch through the data with almost instantaneous speed.

And there’s a lot of data to crunch. According to the announcement, the COSMOS group will search for clues hidden in massive data sets that span 14 billion years of information.

The Superdome Flex is a precursor to HPE’s “The Machine” which represents HPE’s ultimate vision for the future of computing.

The Machine will be able to handle 160 terabytes of data in memory. HPE is inventing all the pieces and parts to make that happen, from new forms of memory to new ways to connect the innards of a computer to the new software. The Machine is still just a prototype, but the insights HPE engineers have gleaned in developing it were used to construct the Superdome Flex, the company says.

Stephen Hawking surrounded by the SGI supercomputer

Stephen Hawking surrounded by the SGI supercomputer
Centre for Theoretical Cosmology

COSMOS has been using supercomputers in some for or another since 1997, so it’s not surprising that HPE is installing its latest, greatest supercomputer there. COSMOS is already using a previous HPE supercomputer and it has a supercomputer built by SGI, the high-performance computing company that HPE acquired in 2016. Plus, in 2014, COSMOS began using the largest shared-memory computer in Europe. That one used Intel chips.

In addition to unraveling the mysteries of the universe, HPE’s new in-memory computer will be used by other scientists at Cambridge, such as the “experimental biophysics” department, which is creating new ways to use light to study the development of embryos.