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September 24, 2013

PRACE Envisions Supercomputing for All

Tiffany Trader

Having brought its transformative powers to bear on the world of science, HPC is primed to work its magic on industry. Among the benefits of a well-executed HPC strategy are increased productivity, improved decision-making and an overall boost in innovation and competitiveness.

National and business interests around the world are turning to HPC to leverage its revitalizing potential as effects from the Great Recession linger much longer than anticipated. “To outcompute is to outcompete” has become the motto for the 21st century.

PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, has embraced another motto as well, and that’s “supercomputing for all.”

PRACE is working directly with EU institutions, academia and industry to usher in the next frontier for HPC in Europe, to extend and leverage the benefits of advanced computing technology. As provider of 80 percent of the HPC capacity for research in Europe, PRACE is well positioned to champion this new paradigm.

Catherine Rivière, Chair of the PRACE Council, weighed in at a recent event, where these topics were addressed. “In three years, some real breakthroughs have been realised because of the possibility to have access to big computers,” said Rivière. But given the competitive global landscape, “it is essential for European countries to keep access to such capacity and to make the best use of HPC in the upcoming years.”

Meeting oncoming challenges in fields like personalized medicine, climate change and energy independence will require “new tools to cope with big data; new working processes to take into account multi-disciplinary problems and teams; and new physical models,” notes Rivière.

Of course developing these technologies does not come cheaply. Konstantinos Glinos, Head of the eInfrastructure Unit at DG Connect in the European Commission, maintains that Europe will need “to increase its investments in HPC in order to be in a leading position.” He adds that ‘the challenge of ‘big data’ and the transition to ‘exascale’ computing provide an opportunity.”

The importance of HPC and partner technologies, cloud and big data, were the topic of a Science|Business debate held in Brussels earlier this month, called “Supercomputers for all: The next frontier for Europe’s high performance computing.” According to Rivière and other experts at the event “the full potential of the technology has yet to be explored, either by science or industry.”