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High Performance Computing

High Performance Computing (HPC) most generally refers to the practice of aggregating computing power in a way that delivers much higher performance than one could get out of a typical desktop computer in order to solve large problems in science, engineering, or business.

Indeed, the intensive growth of processing power, data storage and transmission capabilities has revolutionized many aspects of science and these resources are essential to achieve high-quality results in many application areas.
Modern research requires significant computing power and generates large amounts of data – therefore since 2007, the University of Luxembourg has invested  tens of millions of euro into its own HPC facilities to responds to the growing needs for increased computing and storage. This enabled its researchers to go beyond the limits of traditional simulation. Furthermore, special focus was laid on the development of large computing power combined with huge data storage capacity to accelerate the research performed in intensive computing and large-scale data analytic (Big Data). This characteristic distinguishes the HPC center at the university from many other HPC facilities, which often concentrate on only one of these two pillars.

From its reputation and national expertise in the HPC and Big Data domains, the University of Luxembourg through its Delegate (Prof. Pascal Bouvry) and Advisor (Dr. Sebastien Varrette), has been chosen by the ministry to represent the country within PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe). This implements a new crucial step in the governmental priority aiming at accelerating the development of world-class HPC technologies in Luxembourg. 
The University of Luxembourg is also involved to support the EuroHPC development in the country, in particular with regards the upcoming Luxembourg MeluXina supercomputer or the implementation of the HPC Competence Center, both scheduled for 2020.   

A platform for research

Nowadays this initiative gives more than 500 researchers the possibility to run compute- and storage-intensive computations as part of their research: computer scientists, engineers, physicists, material science researchers, biologists, and even economists. All world-class universities require this type of facility to accelerate its research and ensure cutting-edge results in time to face the global competition.

The platform is used among others for research in physics, cryptology, software validation, or simulation and analysis of communication networks. The large installed storage capacity is crucial for research in polymer physics or material science, simulations in economical research, or bio-medical research on neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson or Alzheimer.

An important factor for economic competitiveness

The HPC center gives the faculties and the interdisciplinary centres a substantial comparative advantage. The availability of huge computing resources in combination with extensive data storage facilities is important for an attractive research environment and attracts researchers to join the University of Luxembourg. This HPC facility is a strategic asset of the university and an important factor for the scientific and therefore also economic competitiveness of Luxembourg.
With the release of the new aion supercomputer (planned Q1 2020) in complement of the iris cluster (in production since mid-2017), the global capacity of the HPC infrastructure provided within the University (~2.8 PetaFlops with both systems) consolidates the University’s ambition to offer a cutting-edge research infrastructure to Luxembourg public research while serving as edge access to the upcoming Luxembourg MeluXina supercomputer in the EuroHPC context.

Computing capacity and outlook

The HPC facility is managed by an expert team under the responsibility of Prof. Pascal Bouvry and Dr. Sebastien Varrette.
Composed by several clusters of compute nodes, the UL HPC platform has kept growing over time thanks to the continuous efforts of the UL HPC Team (Dr. S. Varrette, V. Plugaru, S. Peter, H. Cartiaux, Dr. F. Pinel, Dr. E. Kieffer and E. Krishnasamy). It provides in 2020 a total computing capacity of 2755 TeraFlops (1 TeraFlops = 1012 floating point operations per second) and around 10 PetaByte of shared data storage. This places the HPC center of the University of Luxembourg as one of the major actors in HPC and Big Data for the Greater Region Saar-Lor-Lux.

With the move to the new University site in Esch-Belval, about 20 km southwestern of the capital, the University’s ambition is to further develop this platform into a Center of Excellence in HPC and Big Data serving Luxembourg public research. The new Data Center (Centre de Calcul) in Belval provide indeed enough space and power to extend the computing and storage capacity by a factor of 4 in the coming years, thus allowing to further develop the edge access to the national HPC infrastructures.  

More information on hpc.uni.lu.