HPC in Asia 2017 - Status report from Saudi Arabia

12 Jul 2017 Frankfurt - At the HPC in Asia Workshop during ISC 2017 in Frankfurt, David Keyes, from KAUST, gave an overview of the HPC developments in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East. Actually there is not much HPC in other Middle East countries so most of his talk was indeed about Saudi Arabia. Currently Saudi Arabia has no less than 6 systems in the TOP500 supercomputer list. The most powerful one is the Shaheen II at position 18. Four of the systems are at Aramco, the national oil company. Applications are seismic inversion for exploration, and reservoir modelling for exploitation.

There is a long year development plan in Saudi Arabia. It is believed that there is a strong link between GDP and HPC.

Where is Shaheen today? For one it is the fastest machine between Bologna and Guanzhou. It is the most capable with 105 degrees longitude, Keyes joked. It is the most capable South of Guanzhou. More seriously, Shaneen II is the most capable Cray supercomputer outside the USA and Europe. It is one of the few petascale systems that shares a filesystem with a high resolution CAVE virtual visualisation environment.

Although KAUST is different from Aramco, there are close relations. Supercomputer objectives are pursued in a collaborative manner. Aramco was actually also a founder of KAUST. Over 200 graduates from KAUST are now working at Aramco. Aramco has run a 1 trillion cell simulator on KAUST's Shaheen. A first of its kind now followed by other companies like Exxon.

In a little geological education, Keyes explained the largest continuous pressure oil field in Saudi Arabia, Gwahar, is 1 part in 109 of the earth, with it is about 1012m3volume. To solve Gwahar at 1 m resolution - or the earth at 1 km resultion - takes about 8 Tbytes of data which fits comfortably in DRAM memory. SHaheen can hold a 100 copies in DRAM. It is quit feasible to do implicit problems at the 1 m resolution.

KAUST has been strong in supercomputing since 2009, when it had a system at position 14, after US and German supercomputers. Today 34% of KAUST's faculty - there are 150 in total - use the Shaheen for their work.

A wide variety of codes are supported by KAUST, ranging from computer architecture - Exascale programming models - to simulation and data intensive applications.

Keyes saw two frontiers in simulation. Traditionally one tries to raise the peak capability for the "hero users", contemporarily one also tries to lower the simulation threshold so more users can make use of it. The first addresses exascale scientific grand challenges, while the second is more about the scientific cloud.

KAUST runs many applications, including electrodynamics, quantum chemistry, ocean circulation, simulation, seismic, discovery earth quake sources, combustion and global climate.

A typical research institute, according to Keyes, tries to understand through observation and experiment. At KAUST they go one step further by using simulation - the Third Scientific Paradigm. Together with partners, KAUST even wants to predict using simulation.

KAUST is now operating for 8 years with 150 faculty, almost 1000 students, 400 post docs and 310 research scientists. The goal was that KAUST alumni who stay in Saudi Arabia would lead their institutions into using HPC. So far, however, the HPC alumni are leaving Saudi Arabia for better HPC ecosystems abroad.

Ad Emmen