21 March 2017

Spearheaded by ETH Zurich and CSCS, Switzerland has from the outset been a member of the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE). Now the country is additionally represented as a Hosting Member with ‘Piz Daint’, Europe’s most powerful supercomputer.

Ever since the inception of the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE), Switzerland has been actively represented by ETH Zurich and its affiliated National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS). Seven years or so later, PRACE with its 24 member states has grown established as the leading pan-European collaboration in high performance computing (HPC). It offers users from research and industry free access to the latest supercomputer infrastructure, also providing them with comprehensive and competent support in all aspects of HPC. PRACE 2 was ratified at the 25th PRACE Council in early March. Switzerland becomes a new Hosting Member in this second phase of PRACE, planned to cover the period from 2017 to 2020.

Optimal utilisation of European high-performance computers

As a Hosting Member, Switzerland is now making its ‘Piz Daint’ supercomputer at CSCS available for cutting-edge PRACE research. The other Hosting Members are Spain, Italy, Germany and France. The overarching goal of PRACE is to provide a federated European supercomputing infrastructure with different architectures that is science-driven and globally competitive, according to the PRACE 2 media release. It builds on the strengths of European science providing high-end computing and data analysis resources to drive discoveries and new developments in all areas of science and industry, from fundamental research to applied sciences including: mathematics and computer sciences, medicine and engineering, as well as digital humanities and social sciences.

Piz Daint, a CRAY XC40/XC50, makes CSCS the only PRACE computing centre with a scalable hybrid system of graphics processors and conventional processors, having peak performance of around 20 petaflops. The High-Performance Computing and Networking Strategy (HPCN) launched by the ETH Board in 2009 paved the way to procuring a petaflop-league supercomputer for Switzerland.

Researchers in PRACE member states may now apply for compute time on ‘Piz Daint’, while researchers in Switzerland can gain access to compute time at other Hosting Members. Applications for compute time from Computationally-Intensive, High-Impact Research On Novel Outstanding Science (CHRONOS) projects that previously went via CSCS will now be routed through PRACE instead. “As a Hosting Member, our initiatives in high performance computing with ‘Piz Daint’ will gain further profile internationally and institutionalise our researchers’ access to other leading computing architectures. This will benefit everyone and make Switzerland yet more attractive as a centre of innovation,” says Thomas Schulthess, the Director of CSCS.

User training programmes

In addition to state of the art supercomputer technologies, PRACE also offers comprehensive training courses for students and young scientists in the field of HPC. These include, for example, free workshops, summer schools and online courses.