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UK's most powerful Bull supercomputer starts work at Atomic Weapons Establishment

AWE selects third bullxTM supercomputer for its features, resilience and green credentials

Paris, September  7, 2010 -

Bull has announced that it has been contracted to provide the United Kingdom's Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) with a third large scale supercomputer system. This system is one of the latest in the range of award-winning bullx supercomputers launched by Bull last year. Having now passed acceptance testing it is the most powerful supercomputer used by AWE.

Named 'Blackthorn', this supercomputer will work alongside two other large scale bullx supercomputers, named 'Willow', supplied to AWE earlier this year. The latest addition is more powerful and is designed mostly to process very large single projects, while the Willows will continue working on several smaller concurrent projects.

Blackthorn is one of the first supercomputers in the world to use the latest 6 core Xeon® 'Westmere' chip from Intel and comprises 2160 (6 core) processors in 1080 blades with 750TB of storage. The system can deliver a peak performance of 145 TeraFlops (trillions of calculations per second). It is believed to be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the UK and will be used as part of AWE's ongoing work to maintain the United Kingdom's warheads for the country's nuclear deterrent Trident, as well as support its position as a centre of excellence for science and technology research.

Ken Atkinson, AWE's HPC Strategy Manager, explains the decision to purchase the Blackthorn supercomputer was taken due to a number of contributing factors. "As part of a competitive bid, Bull was able to clearly demonstrate the superior ultra high-performance of the machine. We also took account of Bull's reputation within this market and the fact that other customers had expressed their complete satisfaction with its supercomputers."

"We were impressed with Bull's professionalism throughout the bid process and right through to implementation. The quality of the Bull teams involved in factory acceptance and on-site implementation at Aldermaston has been excellent. Plus the way in which Bull involved us and their key partners, especially Intel, throughout the project means Blackthorn has been successfully delivered against our stringent timetable," said Atkinson.

"Clearly the performance of the supercomputer we have now taken delivery of, was important to AWE, but the key for us is its resilient design, which we have tested thoroughly," Atkinson adds. "We are going to use Blackthorn for large projects which could take several days or even weeks to complete. It was therefore fundamentally important to us that the supercomputer had no single point of failure so it could survive a problem in, say, one of its disks, without the whole computer breaking down."

AWE were also impressed with the systems green credentials. John Dolphin, Computing Facilities Manager at AWE, commented that: "Blackthorn has a power consumption, under load, of 380KW which easily beats the 500KW target the organisation had set Bull. This means that the incoming machine is three to four times more powerful than the supercomputer it is replacing, yet consumes half the electricity."

Fabio Gallo, Vice-President and Director of Extreme Computing Solutions at Bull, commented: "It is Bull's ability to combine our best performing bullx blades and our open-source based software environment which is the key to building a high performing, yet resilient supercomputer. This, I believe, clearly distinguishes Bull as a leader in a highly competitive field, and our contract award to supply a third system to AWE is testament to that fact."

"As ever with a supercomputer the skill has come in ensuring all the components work together in harmony at great speed. We are confident that the combination of the Blackthorn and Willow systems will support AWE's exacting computing demands for processing complex projects whilst providing maximum reliability" Gallo adds.

Leading-edge technologies from several partners were integrated by Bull into the Blackthorn system. The lead partner has been Intel, which supplied its new Xeon® 'Westmere' 6-core processors to equip the bullx blades. High speed Disk Arrays were provided by DDN and Voltaire InfiniBand® is used as the high-speed, low-latency interconnect. Job Scheduling is implemented using 'Moab' software from Adaptive Computing, which allows researchers to log projects which are then allocated depending on capacity, ensuring the work-load is balanced across the three bullx supercomputers operated by AWE.

Now that Blackthorn has passed both factory and on-premises testing, it can continue to assist researchers at AWE carry out the many trillions of calculations per second required to further its understanding of elemental physics and ensure the UK's nuclear deterrent is safely maintained.

About the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)

AWE has been central to the defence of the United Kingdom for more than 50 years through its provision and maintenance of the warheads for the country's nuclear deterrent, Trident. The work at AWE covers the entire life cycle of nuclear warheads; from initial concept, assessment and design, through to component manufacture and assembly, in-service support, and decommissioning and disposal.

AWE employs around 4,500 staff and over 2,000 contractors including scientists, engineers, technicians, crafts-people and safety specialists, as well as business and administrative experts ¿ many of whom are leaders in their field.

AWE is managed for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) through a contractor-operated arrangement. While our sites and facilities remain in government ownership, their management, day-to-day operations and the maintenance of Britain's nuclear stockpile is contracted to a private company: AWE Management Limited (AWE ML). AWE ML is formed of three equal shareholders ¿ Serco, Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering Group.

For further information visit: http://www.awe.co.uk/

About Bull, an Atos company


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About Atos

Atos SE (Societas Europaea) is a leader in digital services with 2013 pro forma annual revenue of €10 billion and 86,000 employees in 66 countries. Serving a global client base, the Group provides Consulting & Systems Integration services, Managed Services & BPO, Cloud operations, Big Data & Security solutions, as well as transactional services through Worldline, the European leader in the payments and transactional services industry. With its deep technology expertise and industry knowledge, the Group works with clients across different business sectors: Defence, Health, Manufacturing, Media & Utilities, Public Sector, Retail, Telecommunications and Transportation.

Atos is focused on business technology that powers progress and helps organizations to create their firm of the future. The Group is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games and is listed on the Euronext Paris market. Atos operates under the brands Atos, Atos Consulting, Atos Worldgrid, Bull, Canopy, and Worldline.

For more information, visit: atos.net

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Aurélie Negro
+33 1 58 04 05 02