Durham University DiRAC Memory Intensive Service

DiRAC Memory Intensive Service at Durham University preserves complex cosmological simulation data with Spectra Solution

Spectra T950 Tape Library


Durham University is home to the DiRAC (Distributed Research Utilizing Advanced Computing) Memory Intensive Service, based in Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC). Four UK universities – Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh and Leicester – are responsible for delivering DiRAC’s HPC services. Researchers at Durham are primarily focused on cosmology and astronomy, seeking to understand more about physics and the universe by generating cosmological simulations of galaxy formation and evolution.

Collaboration is key at DiRAC sites and we expect it from our technology providers. We have seen Spectra step up to the mark more than once since the deployment of our Spectra T950 Tape Library. We’ve received very good support and advice from the Spectra team at every step of the way.

— Dr. Alastair Basden, Technical Lead for the DiRAC Memory Intensive Service, Durham University

The Challenge

The DiRAC Memory Intensive Service, the seventh increment in a series of HPC clusters at Durham University, provides researchers with a combined 812 nodes (including both the COSMA7 and COSMA8 systems), with between 512GB-1TB RAM each and totaling 58,700 cores of computing power. The cosmological simulations generated at Durham require large amounts of memory and RAM, and the Durham facilities are unique in providing about 230TB of RAM spread throughout their HPC cluster. The growing need for ever-higher memory-intensive computing generates significant data volumes. Petaflop compute and petabyte storage requirements are integral to DiRAC-supported projects.

The Solution

Durham University originally sought a solution that would archive in an open file format and handle incremental and full backups, enabling them to implement a comprehensive data protection strategy that would ensure long-term storage and retention. They deployed a Spectra T950 Tape Library with LTO tape drives because of Spectra’s reputation for outstanding support and long-term commitment to customer success. In 2021, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced funding of DiRAC-3, an initiative to upgrade computing power at all four DiRAC sites. To support this initiative, Durham deployed a second Spectra T950 Tape Library with LTO-8 drives and media. The new HPC systems will be three to five times more powerful than the existing DiRAC machines. Looking to the future, Spectra will continue to work in a spirit of collaboration to build enduring success for technology and storage requirements at Durham.


Environment Snapshot

  • Two Spectra® T950 Tape Libraries each with four LTO-8 tape drives and media
  • Spectra Certified Media
  • BlueScale® Vision Camera
  • BlueScale® Standard Encryption
  • Atempo Miria Archiving

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