The New Supercomputing Infrastructure for Europe

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PRACE - Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe

Background

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, funded in part by the EU's 7th Framework Programme, lays the groundwork for the creation of a persistent pan-European High Performance Computing (HPC) Service, consisting of several tier-0 supercomputing centres. Supercomputers are indispensable tools for solving the most challenging and complex scientific and technological problems through simulations. PRACE will create a top class HPC infrastructure which will be managed as a single European entity. Through PRACE, European scientists and technologists will be provided with world-class leadership supercomputers with capabilities equal to or better than those available in the USA and Japan.

Building a world-class pan-European HPC Service is a highly ambitious undertaking that involves governments, funding agencies, centres capable to host and manage the supercomputers, and the scientific and industrial user communities with leading edge applications. In contrast to Research Infrastructures that focus on a single scientific instrument, an HPC Infrastructure has two unique characteristics: supercomputers serve all scientific disciplines and tier-0 supercomputers have a three year depreciation cycle, as tier-0 implies leading edge services.

PRACE contemplates the collaboration of Hosting Partners (4 to 6), who will host the Tier 0 supercomputing nodes, the European Union, and a number of Non Hosting Partners (between 14 and 16) who will contribute financially to the operating costs of the centres and an aggressive upgrade program that will see each centre upgraded on a 3-4 year cycle.



BSC-CNS and PRACE

During 2009, PRACE decided on its governance structure, the funding and usage model, and the peer review process. Extensive dissemination and training activities were continued. The six prototypes for Tier-0 systems to be procured in 2010 were installed and assessed in terms of their technical characteristics, performance and total cost of ownership. STRATOS, the PRACE Advisory group for strategic technologies now involves more than 80 HPC stakeholders including vendors and academia.

The BSC-CNS will host one of the main Tier-0 nodes and is playing a leading role responsible for preparing the organisational aspects of the future infrastructure, including the legal and administrative framework. The decision of a legal seat for PRACE was taken with the board finally appointing Brussels (Belgium) as a temporary legal seat for PRACE. Signature-ready documents (statutes and agreement for the initial period) were prepared along with the risk assessment relative to organizational aspects.

A major international workshop on code-porting and scaling was hosted in Barcelona on October 21–23, 2009 to provide participants with the necessary training, education and expertise in programming models and optimization techniques for Cell and GPGPU-based systems that comprise some of PRACE’s prototype architectures.

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