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PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, offers research groups in its member countries computing time for their projects which require massive processing power. Finland is a PRACE member country and pays a membership fee to PRACE 2 program, which gives Finnish-led projects full possibilities for obtaining computing time on some of the world’s leading supercomputers. Finland’s membership is funded by the Academy of Finland under the FIRI program.
Five PRACE hosting countries have a total of seven so-called Tier-0 level supercomputers with the highest possible performance. At the time of the writing of this blog, the foremost one of these is the Swiss Piz Daint, the world’s third most powerful supercomputer, which mainly consists of graphics processing units.
Finnish research groups have been successful in PRACE’s Calls for Proposals. The computing time already awarded to projects led by Finnish scientists is worth over EUR 10 million. In the first two Calls for Proposals of the current year, as many as seven Finnish research groups obtained Tier-0 level computing resources, which is an incredibly brilliant result!
The value of the computing resources awarded to Finland this year alone would cover the cost of Finland's PRACE membership fees for more than a decade. In this context, ‘Finnish projects’ means that the leader of the research project has an affiliation in Finland, meaning that the project leader is employed in Finland. For a more detailed list of research projects that were awarded resources this year, see the end of this blog.
Calls for Proposals concerning computing time for the largest Tier-0 level projects are organized twice a year, currently in early fall and spring. In the future, however, there are pressures to move to once-yearly calls. Scaling tests of the parallel software that the project intends to run are an essential part of the application. Computing time for testing purposes on the targeted supercomputer can be applied for through PRACE’s continuous Preparatory Access application process. In other words, it would be a good idea for research groups to start their scaling tests early!
PRACE assesses the applications in terms of both technical feasibility and scientific quality. On the basis of the technical assessment, the project is either rejected or accepted, depending on whether it is suitable for the planned platform, and whether the scaling tests have been carried out and other technical requirements are fulfilled.
The projects are ranked as a result of scientific peer reviews. The scientific assessment of the project begins with the statements of at least three peer reviewers. In the next stage, rapporteurs of PRACE’s Access Committee summarize the assessments and finally produce a ranked list of projects.
"The computing time already awarded to projects led by Finnish scientists is worth over EUR 10 million."
At the resource allocation session, the projects are allocated to the participating supercomputers, starting with the project assessed as the best. Once the allocated resources of a supercomputer have been fully booked, the committee considers if the project could be transferred to another supercomputer. This question may also arise if the joint quota of the Contributing General Partners – one of which is Finland – is already used up for some hosting country. Indicating in the application that your project is prepared to be flexible and transfer to a different computing platform will consequently improve your possibilities of accessing these highly demanded computing resources.
CSC will be very happy to assist Finnish research groups that are thinking of submitting an application to PRACE. The research group should contact CSC early so that we can consider together how we could help you with your application process.
PRACE is also active in other areas that promote computational science and scientific computing. National level computing time on Tier-1 supercomputers is exchanged and offered to research groups under the PRACE DECI program (the Distributed European Computing Initiative). I am the chair of this program’s management team.
A good example of PRACE’s activities in the field of communications is the Women in HPC campaign, which also led to the creation of a successful Finnish spin-off. Within the framework of PRACE, we have also managed to improve the performance of computing software important for Finnish research.
I would particularly like to highlight PRACE’s pan-European training activities successfully administrated by CSC under the leadership of Training Manager Jussi Enkovaara. CSC hosts one of the six advanced training centers for European high-performance computing (PRACE Advanced Training Center, PATC). This offers the Finnish academic community an excellent opportunity to participate in top-class supercomputing courses.
PRACE’s Tier-0 level is the tip of the iceberg in the computational science, and the PRACE research infrastructure would have little success without strong national level capacity and support work. Happily, the future also appears bright for Finland in this respect.
Resources awarded by PRACE to Finnish scientists in PRACE Calls for Proposals published in 2017