E4 Computer Engineering and IIT Enhance Franklin Cluster to Boost AI and HPC Research

June 19, 2024

SCANDIANO, Italy, June 19, 2024 — E4 Computer Engineering, a leading Italian company in the field of high-technology hardware and software solutions for Artificial Intelligence, High-Performance Computing (HPC), Quantum Computing (QC), Cloud Computing and Data Analytics, has designed and implemented, together with the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology, IIT), the recent upgrade of the Franklin cluster, IIT’s supercomputer that plays a key role in supporting the Institute’s studies and researchers.

Founded in 2003, with 14 research centers, more than 1,300 patents under its belt and 35 start-ups generated, IIT has evolved significantly over the years, seeing its needs grow in terms of digital infrastructure and computing capacity. To this end, in 2020, E4 had designed the data center for the Institute, the Franklin supercomputer, equipped with a computational capacity of 1 PFlops and managed using classic HPC paradigms from infrastructure management (each node basically assigned to a mission) to the user experience for researchers based on a text interface and batch job submission.

However, the current needs of modern HPC and data-driven research make batch mode access alone too limited, while the extreme complexity and diversity of the tools used in different lines of research make it impossible to have too static a management of computing nodes.

For this reason, the current E4 upgrade focuses on two aspects:

  1. The enhancement of the infrastructure according to sustainability criteria (increasing Franklin’s computational power by 50% against a 10% increase in hardware).
  2. The adoption of new approaches for infrastructure management and access to resources.

In fact, E4’s Medooza solution for HPC envisages managing a cluster according to cloud and Infrastructure as a Code paradigms, guaranteeing the ability to quickly reconfigure on demand and the reproducibility of the configurations themselves. Within Medooza, the ICE4HPC component of E4 allows calculations in batch mode and in interactive mode to coexist on the same infrastructure, based on the use of notebooks and browser interfaces, and in particular access to GPU resources in interactive and shared mode. Unlike traditional HPC for data-driven lines of research, access to resources in interactive mode is a fundamental requirement.

Interactive computation and visualization are critical aspects of Artificial Intelligence research, and it is precisely the interaction between AI methods and traditional physics simulations that are at the centre of the most advanced studies carried out using the resources and interaction modes provided by Franklin. As a result of the upgrades, the Franklin cluster has been significantly optimised and has reached a useful size for the purposes of the institute, allowing it to be used by a considerable number of research lines and with over 250 active users.

“This new chapter in our collaboration with IIT, which began in 2008 and has been consolidated over the years through fundamental steps such as the first realisation of the Franklin cluster, is a source of particular pride for us because it confirms our ability, in terms of design and know-how, to accompany a prestigious and nationally important institution in its evolutionary path of using supercomputing at the service of innovation and research,” commented Cosimo Damiano Gianfreda, CEO of E4 Computer Engineering.

“Over time, it was realised that HPC was not just a niche asset, e.g. restricted to atomistic simulation, but on the contrary an enabling factor across the board,” said Sergio Decherchi, Coordinator of the Data Science and Computation Facility (DSCF). “An infrastructure was therefore created that was available to the entire IIT scientific community to enable and accelerate discovery in all the institute’s computational domains.”

The cluster Franklin is managed by DSCF, which makes the computing power of the supercomputer available to the entire institute, enabling massive use of machine learning and data analysis techniques that need access to valuable resources such as GPUs.

About E4 Computer Engineering

E4 Computer Engineering designs and implements high-tech solutions for HPC Clusters, Cloud, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure for the Academic and Enterprise markets. For years the company has been collaborating with leading research centres at national and international level (Cineca, CERN, ECMWF, LEONARDO) and is involved in national and European projects in the HPC and AI fields (EuroHPC JU EPI, EUPEX, Horizon Europe, KDT).

About IIT

The Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology) is a state-funded scientific research centre that promotes technological development with the aim of supporting excellence in basic and applied research to foster the development of the national economic system. IIT’s research activities are characterised by a strong multidisciplinary approach and relate to four scientific areas: robotics, nanomaterials, computational sciences and artificial intelligence and life sciences technologies. IIT’s overall staff numbers about 2000 people, 50% of whom come from abroad, from over 60 countries worldwide. The average age of IIT staff is 35 and 42% are women. IIT’s output to date boasts about 18000 publications, over 200 active European projects and more than 50 ERC projects, more than 1300 active patent titles, over 30 start-ups established and more than 50 in the launch phase. In addition to the Central Research Laboratories, a network consisting of 4 sites located in the Genoa area, IIT has 11 research centres spread across the country (in Turin, two in Milan, Trento, Rome, two in Pisa, Naples, Lecce, Ferrara and Venice) and 2 outstations abroad (MIT and Harvard in the USA).


Source: E4 Computer Engineering

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