Autumn update

Work on the Edinburgh International Data Facility passed three key milestones this autumn, bringing the infrastructure that will underpin the £600m Data-Driven Innovation Programme significantly closer to reality.

New computer room

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, EIDF’s home, Computer Room 4 (cr4) at the University’s Advanced Computing Facility, completed its main construction phase at the end of the third quarter of 2020 and cr4 has entered its commissioning and fit-out phase.  If everything goes to plan, cr4 will be walk-in ready in mid-December, and we will start to build infrastructure in the room from January 2021.

Phase 1 hardware 

Perhaps wheel-in ready is a better description, given the size of some of the equipment now on its way from hardware partner HPE.

EIDF Phase 1 hardware will include 30 HPE ProLiant and Apollo servers, 20 Nvidia GPUs and 46 PB of storage capacity, plus two HPE SuperDome Flex supercomputers each with 18 TB memory. The bulk of this has been arriving throughout October and November, passing the second of our milestones. One of the SuperDome Flexes will replace our aging Ultra supercomputer and the servers will form the bedrock of EIDF’s data science cloud. The storage systems will underpin the new Research Data Facility service for UKRI as well as providing user workspace for both the National Safe Haven and the data science cloud.

Data science cloud 

The completion of the data science cloud’s software base hit our third milestone of the quarter. The data science cloud is the new virtual machine-based computing service that will give users their main window into EIDF. 

Based on the OpenStack open-source cloud software, the data science cloud will offer a rich array of tools and services on full Linux virtual desktops accessible through a standard web browser. 

Over the last few months we’ve successfully hooked all the moving parts together with SAFE, EPCC’s service management software stack, laying solid foundations for the launch of this new service early next year.

Data research projects 

It’s been a great summer of progress on the new EIDF service, and this has been on top of our continuing development and support for COVID-19 research projects on our existing data facilities. 

Within the highly secure National Safe Haven infrastructure, the Scottish COVID-19 Research Database is in active use by more than 30 projects under the governance of Public Health Scotland. 

Alongside that, our work with the ISARIC4C consortium is bringing the power of the 8 TB-memory Ultra system to bear on the marriage of clinical trial data from the University of Oxford with genomic data from the Roslin Institute. 

The National Safe Haven has also been key to our work with the new Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence, partnering with a major UK financial institution and local fin-techs on modelling the economic consequences of the pandemic. The demands of these projects are helping shape our plans and designs for the new EIDF hardware – for us, necessity really has been the mother of invention over the last few months.

Next stages

Looking ahead to the start of 2021, we’ll be launching the first services on EIDF in April, and we expect some of the first users to come from the programme of COVID-19 response and recovery projects for the City of Edinburgh region, funded recently by the Scottish Funding Council. 

We are working right now with colleagues across the University on plans to provide the right kinds of data and compute environments for projects from epidemiology to manufacturing supply chains, from social care to infrastructure planning and recovery in the local economy. 

Never has the need for better machinery to support critical decision-making been so acute. We’ll be doing all we can to ensure that EIDF can rise to the challenges ahead.


Rob Baxter, EPCC, EIDF Programme Manager


Data-Driven Innovation Programme

Edinburgh International Data Facility

Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence

ISARIC: Understanding behaviour and spread of COVID-19 in the UK

ISARIC4C consortium