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. As all scientific disciplines are becoming computational today, access to HPC resources is nowadays essential for science, society and industry.
Since 2007, the University of Luxembourg has invested more than 9 million euro into its own HPC platform in order to support and drive innovation within strategic research areas of international importance, also closely linked with the realities of Luxembourg's society and economy. Combining large computing power and huge data storage capacities, the facility offers a competitive and attractive research environment to ensure cutting-edge results in time. Today, more than 460 computer scientists, engineers, physicists, material science researchers, biologists, and even economists have the opportunity to run on this platform intensive computations and perform Big Data analytics as part of their research.
The HPC facility is managed by an expert team under the responsibility of Prof. Pascal Bouvry and Dr. Sébastien Varrette from the Computer Science and Communications Research Unit (CSC). Composed of several clusters of compute nodes, the HPC platform has kept growing over time thanks to the continuous efforts of the University of Luxembourg HPC Team. It now provides a total computing capacity of 415 TeraFlops (1 TeraFlops = 1012 floating point operations per second) and around 7 PetaByte of shared data storage (1 Petabyte = 106 gigabytes). This places the HPC centre of the University of Luxembourg as one of the major actors in HPC and Big Data for the Greater Region Saar-Lor-Lux.
At the European level, PRACE - Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, an international non-profit association, seeks to enhance European competitiveness in HPC for the benefit of society by offering persistent world-class HPC services and data management resources for scientists and researchers from academia and industry in Europe. Each of the member countries of this association has to select a representative organisation with the aim of helping the development of a pan-European supercomputing infrastructure.
Due to its reputation and national expertise in the HPC and Big Data domains, the University of Luxembourg has received the support from all public research centres in Luxembourg and has been chosen by the Ministry for Higher Education and Research (MESR) to represent the country within PRACE. At the 27th PRACE Council Meeting, held in Amsterdam on 17 October 2017, the PRACE members unanimously approved the application of Luxembourg, which became at that occasion the 25th country to join PRACE (PDF). Prof. Pascal Bouvry and Dr. Sébastien Varrette respectively serve as Delegate and Advisor on the PRACE Council to represent the country.
On 12 February 2018, Robert Kerger, advisor at the Ministry for Higher Education and Research representing Luxembourg in the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), and Serge Bogaerts, Managing Director of PRACE, were invited for an official visit of the University of Luxembourg. They were welcomed by the Rector Stéphane Pallage, Prof. Pascal Bouvry and the University of Luxembourg HPC team. The future of HPC and Big Data in Europe and the entrance of Luxembourg in PRACE were first discussed. "The University is proud to represent the country within PRACE. Complementary to its involvement in several HPC initiatives at the national level - in collaboration with 5 ministries - or in Europe - ETP4HPC, EuroHPC, etc., this represents a new step validating the long running efforts and developments around HPC made in the last 10 years", stated Stéphane Pallage.
Then, a visit of the University of Luxembourg HPC facility located in the Maison du Savoir on the Belval Campus was organised. "I am really impressed by the efforts achieved in such a short time to develop world-class HPC technologies in Luxembourg. By becoming the 25th Member of PRACE, Luxembourg will expand its network and benefit from the knowledge and experience acquired by our members. I am looking forward to a fruitful partnership with Luxembourg in the coming years", stated Serge Bogaerts.
The University of Luxembourg will continue to further develop its HPC activities in the next few years: "A new Data Centre is being built in Belval and will provide enough space and power to extend the computing capacity by a factor of 40 and the installed storage capacity by 4. Operational by 2019, this new facility will definitively place our centre as one of the major actors in HPC and Big Data within the Greater Region", commented Pascal Bouvry with enthusiasm.