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New Danish supercomputer will benefit society far more

Supercomputers, which enables researchers and scientists to make calculations and models, have so far been inaccessible to most people. Now a collaboration with the participation of the University of Southern Denmark, Aalborg University and Aarhus University ensures that supercomputers become available to researchers from all fields.

By Mikkel Linnemann Johansson, , 11/4/2020

Design of new medicine, studies of space and optimization of wind turbines. In Denmark, supercomputers have already been used for a multitude of purposes in research and development.

So far, however, the supercomputers have required that it be specialists from a narrow field of research areas who sat behind the screen and fed the machines with data and codes.

Now, a collaboration between Aalborg University, Aarhus University and the University of Southern Denmark under the Danish e-Infrastructure Cooperation, DeiC, ensures that far more researchers can use supercomputers.

With the newly developed platform UCloud, Denmark's new supercomputers have become interactive and have an intuitive graphical user interface. Thus, one no longer must be an expert user to use a supercomputer.

Due to its simplicity and usability, UCloud has also been chosen by DeiC as the platform that will be the common entrance to all the country's national supercomputers and data storage facilities over the coming years. This effort is made by a consortium consisting of SDU, DTU and AU.

Big Data entails a great need

In recent years, the need for the use of supercomputers has changed, because across all research areas there is data that is extremely complex and extensive.

This means that virtually all research areas may need to draw on the enormous computing power and data capacity of supercomputers.

- In the social sciences and the humanities, traditional supercomputers have rarely been used for research. That's going to change now because our new supercomputer is far simpler to go to.

This is the assessment of Claudio Pica, professor at IMADA at SDU and director of the university's eScience Center.

- At the same time, we expect that supercomputers will be used to a completely different extent than before in everything from precision medicine and biomedicine to artificial intelligence and green energy, to name a few areas, he says.

Joint efforts yield greater returns

- Thanks to great user-friendliness, all research areas are ensured easy access to the new state-of-the-art supercomputer, which increases the impact of Danish research.

This is what associate professor Kristoffer Laigaard Nielbo, who heads the Center for Humanities Computing and runs Aarhus University's commitment to the collaboration on the new supercomputer, says.

- And when more researchers from several different research areas can use our supercomputer, it will naturally lead to more innovations and research successes, he adds.

According to him, this is only reinforced by the fact that the new supercomputer to a much greater extent allows researchers to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects.

In addition to the calculation units themselves and the newly developed user interface, the collaboration also includes extensive data storage and researcher-oriented user support, so that the powerful hardware can be used in the best possible way.

- The collaboration across our universities is crucial for Denmark to have a secure and robust infrastructure within supercomputing, says Claudio Pica.

This also means that in the long term, researchers will be able to use supercomputing in a teaching context and for the education of future researchers, which will promote Denmark's position in the scientific research landscape.

Initially, however, access to the supercomputer will go via the researchers, explains Professor Torben Larsen, who is vice dean for research at Aalborg University and takes care of the university's external interests in supercomputing.

- It is our vision that with a budget allocation for national supercomputing resources in the future we will be able to provide access to students. This will be able to provide candidates with strong competencies within supercomputing for the benefit of the Danish business community, who can take advantage of the increasing use of data in products and services, he says.

Access to international network

Torben Larsen explains that the collaboration between the three universities will also play a significant role by being a steppingstone for Danish researchers' path to the European supercomputer LUMI, which has just been announced.

- Just as the collaboration between our universities is a strength for our supercomputer, we are also stronger when we collaborate across national borders in a European context, says Torben Larsen.

Here, Denmark is one of ten nations that are part of the LUMI collaboration, where Torben Larsen and Claudio Pica represent the country in the strategic committee and the operational committee, respectively.

- By being part of this European collaboration, both Danish researchers and companies gain access to the world's leading supercomputer facilities, which will give a significant boost to Danish innovation and competitiveness, Claudio Pica concludes.

Facts: What is a supercomputer?

A supercomputer - or an HPC, short for High-Performance Computing - is a network of computers that are closely connected to complement each other's computational power.

The special thing about this supercomputer is that it is an interactive cloud-based solution that focuses on easy access to great computing power and great data capacity.

The physical computer installation will be located in Odense and in Aalborg. The University of Southern Denmark will primarily focus on building a CPU-based solution, with Aalborg University primarily focusing on a GPU-based solution (Graphical Processing Unit).

Aalborg University has installed three extremely powerful GPU-based solutions (NVIDIA DGX-2) with a total of 48 GPUs with a total of approx. 250,000 CUDA cores and approx. 30,000 Tensor cores

The University of Southern Denmark, Aalborg University and Aarhus University jointly provide advice and assistance to all research environments at the Danish universities.

The new interactive supercomputer, now called Type 1 by DeiC, is one of four national HPC systems. As of November 2020, Type 1 and Type 2 are available to all the country's researchers, while the other two will be ready during 2021.

SDU also provides a solution for Type 3, which is targeted at so-called large memory computing, which is used, for example, for processing large amounts of machine-generated Big Data, where fast memory in large amounts is often an advantage.

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Editing was completed: 04.11.2020