Photo Credits: IT4Innovations

We are visiting today the Czech Republic, not because of their beautiful hills but because of the supercomputing competences of their Digital Innovation Hubs: let’s have a peek on the example of IT4Innovations.

Established in 2011, IT4Innovations is one of the 7 fully operational Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) in Czech Republic (as per S3 Platform catalogue) and one of the four of them that have competences in advanced or high performance computing. The other 3 are: South Moravian Digital Manufacturing Hub (DIGIMAT), Research Center for Informatics and South Bohemian Digi Hub.

IT4Innovations is the only national large research HPC e-infrastructure operating national Tier-1 systems, runs four supercomputers and distribute their research activities across 5 laboratories. They are doing a clever management of European and national funds and offer a good number of services for industry and academia.

Read below the answers that Mr. Tomas Karasek (TS) has kindly given us to know more!

Tell us a bit about IT4Innovations

TS: IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center at VSB-TUO is a strategic research infrastructure in the Czech Republic. In the framework of IT4Innovations, the most powerful supercomputing facilities in the Czech Republic are built, and excellent research in High Performance Computing (HPC), High Performance Data Analysis (HDPA), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies is performed. The centre provides state-of-the-art technology and expertise in HPC and makes it available to Czech and international research teams from academia and industry. IT4Innovations research activities are distributed across 5 laboratories:

  • Parallel Algorithms Research Lab,
  • Advanced Data Analysis and Simulations Lab,
  • Modelling for Nanotechnologies Lab,
  • Big Data Analysis Lab, and
  • Infrastructure Research Lab.

IT4Innovations is a proud member of:

  • PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe),
  • ETP4HPC (European Technology Platform in the area of High-Performance Computing),
  • EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (building a European exascale supercomputer),
  • EUDAT Collaborative Data Infrastrucutre, and
  • BDVA (Big Data Value Organisation).

What specific services do IT4Innovations offer?

TS: At present, IT4Innovations runs four supercomputers: Anselm (94 TFlop/s, installed in the summer of 2013), Salomon (2 PFlop/s, installed in the summer of 2015), Barbora (849 TFlop/S, installed in the autumn of 2019) and a special system for artificial intelligence computation, DGX-2 (2 PFlop/s in AI, installed in 2019). A petascale EURO_IT4I system will be installed at the centre in 2020 as part of the EuroHPC project.

IT4Innovations also provides services to industry in several ways. Companies can rent computational resources either with or without support (support consists of installation of codes to the clusters, running of the codes on the clusters, HPC-as-a-Service consultancy etc.). Companies, who are in need of domain expertise can leverage the knowledge and capabilities of IT4Innovations researchers through contracted and collaborative research.

IT4Innovations has much experience with development and optimization of parallel codes for both non-accelerated and accelerated (GPU, Xeon Phi) HPC architectures. The code optimization experience is further strengthened in both methodology and tools by our participation in H2020 CoE POP2. We have local experts with practical experience with both BSC based optimization tools (Extraw, Paraver, Dimemas, etc.) as well as JSC tools based on Score-P (Scalasca, Cube, Vampir, etc.). In addition, IT4I has experts capable of code analysis with commercial tools both from Intel (VTune Amplifier) and ARM (MAP, Performance reports) tools.

The training activities represent another important service directly connected to IT4Innovations computer technologies. More than eleven times per year on average, IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center organizes training and educational events, seminars, and conferences given by top, often international lecturers and experts. Since the commencement of operations in 2013, 63 high profile training events and six seasonal schools have been organized. The training events at IT4Innovations are free of charge, open to the public, and designed to leverage the supercomputer technology adoption and usage efficiency among IT4Innovations’ current and perspective user community.

Photo Credits: IT4Innovations

Did you receive any EU funds and, if so, how did you employ them?

TS: The main funding source that allows us to acquire the latest HPC infrastructure is ERDF. A part of this infrastructure can be and is used for collaboration with industry. This year we installed a new “small” HPC cluster named Barbora with EUR 2.36 million covered by ERDF (i.e. 85% of total investment costs).

Next year we are going to launch “large” HPC cluster: 9.75 million (65%) of the total investment costs of EUR 15 million will be financed under ESIF (85% from ERDF), the remaining 35% are financed from the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking programme.

Operational costs are covered mainly by national sources.

H2020 is an important part of our research activities – in 2018 H2020 projects represented more than 10% of incomes of IT4Innovations centre.

Can you  provide a practical example of a case you supported?

TS: BORCAD cz is a local SME designing and manufacturing passenger seats for railways. To penetrate British market their products has to fulfil very rigid safety criteria including safety certificate which could be obtained only after seat passes physical crash tests. Those crash tests are not only expensive but also time consuming because prototype has to be built and tested. This makes traditional trial-and-error approach very ineffective. Numerical modelling and simulation of above mentioned crash tests is one of the most practical and widely used solutions. Its disadvantages are that computational time using common computational resources is rather long and that especially small companies do not have capabilities for performing such complex simulations.

For both reasons BORCAD cz approached IT4Innovations which has both HPC resources and researchers with necessary capabilities. During this collaboration, team of researchers and engineers from BORCAD and IT4Innovations was created. Existing design cycle was modified in such a way that all design and their changes are first virtually tested and only when it passes it will undergo physical crash test at certification laboratory. Main objective of this collaboration was to build know-how and expertise in numerical modelling and simulation of crash tests for BORCAD. This technological transfer received HiPEAC Technology Transfer Award in 2016.

Interview by Almudena S. Escrich, DIHNET