The University of Portsmouth has deployed what is being branded as a "cost effective" high performance computer (HPC) to analyse data from telescopes around the world, and simulate and test current theories about the universe.

The Dell-based computer will enable the University's scientists to analyse the very large volumes of data needed for their research much faster than conventional systems.

The University was able to build the computer - named SCIAMA - using widely-available standard server and storage hardware. The computer also uses Alces Software's open source HPC software.

The University uses applications such as GADGET2 to simulate large portions of the universe, as well as a Markov Chain Monte Carlo code (a set of complex algorithms) to test the probability that a given astrophysical theory is correct.

The Portsmouth team uses Scientific Linux as the underlying operating system to power its research. The technology configuration used has cut down the cost of SCIAMA, said the University.

Dr David Bacon of the University of Portsmouth said: "Our Institute of Cosmology is in a great position to use this high performance computer to make real breakthroughs in understanding the universe, both by analysing the very latest astronomical observations, and by calculating the consequences of mind-boggling new theories."

Bacon said, "By selecting Dell's industry-standard hardware and open source software we're able to free up budget that would have normally been spent on costly licences and reinvest it."

Dell has previously been involved with Cambridge University's HPC Solution Centre and with CERN's Large Hadron Collider research centre.

The SCIAMA configuration:

-1008 Cores based on 2.66GHz Intel Xeon processors

-2GB of memory per core (roughly equivalent to 1,000 desktop PCs)

-85TB of Lustre-based parallel storage

-10TB of NFS storage