Changes in Research Computing

As you know, this is a time of exciting change for Research Computing, and in more than one way.

For those who don’t already know, after fourteen years working on HPC at Leeds, Mark Dixon will shortly be leaving us to take up a post at Durham with an exciting new direction for his career.  Today however, we say goodbye to Mike Wallis who, after twenty-six years is going up to Edinburgh to head up a new group there.  Great opportunities for both of them, and I’m sure you’ll join with us in wishing them all the best for the future!

Clearly, this creates a temporary gap in provision which gives us a challenge – and an opportunity – to shape the team for the future.

We are developing the new team shape to replace the existing capabilities, and to augment the service provided to researchers in ARC and beyond.

To that end, we have already recruited four new staff – John Hodrien, Oliver Clark, Nick Rhodes and Alex Coleman – who will be working to provide both support for the existing facilities, but also additional Research Software Engineering support for the University.  Some of those names will be familiar to you, but I’m sure you’ll make them all very welcome!

Of course, in the meantime we are in the advanced stages of finalising the pilot for ARC4 (our latest High Performance Computing cluster), readying this new facility for general use.

We hope that this will provide a real boost to the University, particularly supporting the work with GPUs which is seeing increasingly high demand in areas as diverse as Molecular Dynamics and Deep Learning.  As part of the rollout, we will arrange some additional meetings to launch the service and give you full details of what we now have available.

Additionally, from the start of the academic year there will be lots of opportunity to come along to information sessions, to contribute to our development planning and work with us as we go on this exciting journey to build what we intend to be the best University Research Computing service in the UK.

To give you a taste of what’s to come, this is what we are doing right now:

1. Establishing a University-wide Research Software Engineering service:
  • We’ve appointed four new RSEs (Research Software Engineers- see above) with skills and experience across Linux, Windows, Web, Cloud, Data Science, HPC and Scientific Applications
  • We will be appointing more RSEs to provide even more support to the new EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training, the Bragg Institute and support for High Performance Computing.
  • Building out skills in the team to support Digital Humanities and Digital Health.
  • Developing a Masters’ level apprenticeship programme to help train the next generation of Research Software Engineers and Research Support Professionals.
  • Continuing to develop and update our comprehensive research skills training portfolio, working with colleagues across the University.

2. Continuing to invest heavily in High Performance Computing to support research:
  • There has been a £2 million investment (from faculties, research groups and Central University funds) in the new ARC4 HPC service.
  • ARC4 will be in ‘pilot’ in the next few weeks and launched as a production service just as soon as we’ve given the tyres a good kicking.

3. Investing in agile and adaptive Cloud-based solutions for research
  • We’re building and testing a flexible cloud-based HPC service as an adjunct to our on-premise HPC.  Perhaps you need stand-alone HPC for teaching or access to test out different hardware before you commit to purchase?
  • Piloting a Cloud-based Jupyter Notebook and R Studio service for teaching and research- accessible from anywhere with just your Web browser.
…and we are just getting started.

As ever, we’re listening, so if you’ve any thoughts or comments just drop either me (Martin Callaghan) or Mark Conmy a line.