The first supercomputer to operate in Portugal was inaugurated on the 5th of July in Riba d'Ave, Minho, enabling the launch of the Minho Advanced Computing Centre (MACC) of the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia - the foundation for science and technology (FCT) activities, which will increase the Portuguese domestic computing capacity by about 10 times.
The entry into operation of this supercomputer, within the scope of the National Digital Skills Initiative - INCoDE.2030 and in the specific context of the National Advanced Computing Strategy, will enable and stimulate the current participation of Portugal in the different European networks and consortia involved in the development and use of computing, namely in strengthening the "Iberian Advanced Computing Network - IACnet" and the European initiative "EuroHPC - European High-Performance Computing".
The MACC is installed at REN's data centre, whose operation is managed in a segregated way by REN and NOS. The system is already installed in the area operated by NOS, and is intended to be fed mainly by renewable energy sources provided by EDP, namely solar, wind and hydroelectric power. It was installed and is being operated by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) in partnership with Universidade do Minho.
This supercomputer, with a memory capacity of 266 TB, 1 PByte of storage capacity and 1 PFlop of calculation performance, was installed in the MACC during the past few months as part of the renewal of the partnership between FCT and the University of Texas at Austin - through the Texas Advanced Computing Centre, TACC, signed on 15 February 2018, with the attendance of Prime Minister António Costa. It includes a total of 80 computing nodes and is referred to as "BoB".
Meanwhile, the European Commission announced on 12 June 2019 the approval of the installation at the MACC of a second "petascale" level machine under the European "EuroHPC" initiative, capable of executing at least 10 PFlops, or 10 trillion operations per second. This machine, referred to as "Deucalion", is expected to start being installed by the end of 2020, reinforcing significantly the current BoB and extending the scope of the activities to be made available by the MACC.
Additionally, Portugal is also participating in another proposal approved by the European Commission, to install a "pre-exascale" type supercomputer at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación, whose Portuguese participation represents about 10% of the corresponding consortium, which also includes Turkey and Croatia and is supported by Ireland. This machine will be able to execute over 175 PFlops, or 175 trillion calculations per second, becoming one of the five most powerful supercomputers in the world.
In a global context of exponential growth in the relevance of digital technologies at all levels of society, the installation of supercomputing in Portugal and the strengthening of the European capacity in this area creates great opportunities for the scientific and business communities to work at the best global level in the development of important applications in areas such as the design of new products for the automotive and aerospace industries, personalised medicine, the design of medicines and materials, bioengineering, weather forecasting and climate change.
The installation of the MACC opens up new opportunities in Portugal, both for research groups dedicated to supercomputing, and for an expanding group of research and work areas with growing needs for digital information processing, among which medicine, land and space, physics and mobility stand out. This significant increase in available computing power will enable easier access by the entire community of the Portuguese scientific and technological system for work in the fields of intensive computing, data science and artificial intelligence.
This strengthening of the national computational capacity also represents a unique opportunity for the business sector, significantly increasing its capacity for the conception, optimisation and validation of new products and services, opening important avenues for the creation of added value for the Portuguese economy.
It is in this context that the inauguration of the MACC will be accompanied by the signing of two collaboration protocols with the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), namely: