Radical changes to supercomputer architectures are on the horizon. In 2021, it is predicted that the so called “exascale” barrier will be broken. This is the point where supercomputers will be able to process 1018 (or one with eighteen trailing zeros) floating point operations per second. Some have speculated that this level of processing power is starting to approach that of the human brain.
To continue to make scientific advances on some of the most challenging physical problems facing the world today, such as weather forecasting, engine design, astrophysics, particle physics and fusion energy, it is essential that the UK fully harnesses the power of the world’s most powerful supercomputers as we move into the exascale era and beyond. However, this cannot be achieved without appropriate software: existing simulation codes will not perform effectively on the next generation of supercomputers.
The ExCALIBUR programme will address this challenge by redesigning high priority computer codes and algorithms, keeping UK research and development at the forefront of high-performance simulation science. The challenge spans many disciplines and research software engineers and scientists will work together to future proof the UK against the fast-moving changes in supercomputer designs. This combined scientific expertise will push the boundaries of science across a wide range of fields delivering transformational change at the cutting-edge of scientific supercomputing.
ExCALIBUR will achieve this by building on the four pillars:
Separation of Concerns
The algorithms that encapsulate the mathematics and physics of the problem are separated from the computational science of their implementation.
Holistic design of the software of the entire simulation system involving innovative collaborations between mathematicians, domain scientists and computational scientists.
Research to design new workflows adapted to managing & analysing vast volumes of data ingested and produced by simulations.
Investment in People
Improved RSE career development driven by professional forward-looking approach to scientific software design of simulation codes.
ExCALIBUR is led by the (Met Office) and the (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)) along with the Public Sector Research Establishment, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) research councils, including the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC).
ExCALIBUR is a project within the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) with a total funding of £46m
The programme objectives have been designed to deliver:
Efficiency – The UK’s most important scientific simulation codes will be able to harness the power of the supercomputers of the mid-2020s resulting in an increase in scientific productivity for a given investment.
Capability – Capitalising on this efficiency will enable the UK to continue to push the boundaries of science across a wide range of fields delivering transformational change in capability.
Expertise – A new, forward-facing, interdisciplinary approach to Research Software Engineer (RSE) career development will position the next generation of UK software engineers at the cutting-edge of scientific supercomputing.