People to Watch 2024 – Dieter Kranzlmüller

Dieter Kranzlmüller

Chair of the Board of Directors, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ)​

Congratulations on your selection as a 2024 HPCwire Person to Watch. Maybe this is an unusual question, but what does the chairman of the board of directors do? As a long-time senior leader in Europe’s HPC community, you have a well-informed perspective. Could you give us a sense of the size and scope of LRZ’s diverse activities and your responsibilities as chairman of the board?

Basically, I am responsible for an institute with more than 300 employees from about 45 different countries – our task is to provide IT services for academia and science. LRZ is like a full-service provider offering all basic services from email to web severs to collaboration platforms to supercomputers. We are a partner for the digital transformation of science, and we also do our own research in this domain on topics such as energy efficiency.

We operate high-tech e-infrastructures to support ground-breaking science. As part of the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing, LRZ is one of the three national supercomputing centers in Germany. In the field of AI or HPC and AI, we are currently extending our AI infrastructures with a focus on offerings for the Bavarian research community and we are a hosting entity for one of the six quantum computers for the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, to give just a few examples of our big infrastructures and systems.

Personally, my focus is strategic development and partnerships with our academic colleagues.

Gaining greater Europe-based control over key computational technologies is a long-time effort that includes the OpenWebSearch project to “contribute to Europe’s sovereignty for navigating and searching the web”. LRZ is a member and you’ve spoken about the project’s importance. Could you describe the project’s goals, how LRZ is contributing, and perhaps how the science community will benefit?

The project and the Open Search Foundation — both founded and based in Europe — come from a background of open source, open data, open access, and open science. These values have always resonated with my academic career, but of course also with LRZ as an institution. Hence, supporting it from the start was the natural thing to do.

The goal is as simple as it is challenging: to develop an open web index that should form the basis for alternatives in the current web search market. So, indeed, it has a lot to do with digital sovereignty in Europe, but also with “good IT” — if you want to call it that. IT technology that has the users’ interests in mind. And the benefits are manifold for private users and the science community alike, such as transparent access to the index, and open algorithms for searching it.

Specifically, we at LRZ are working towards providing our infrastructure for web crawling as well as for workflow control and provisioning of services for this web index. Additionally, our team supports efforts around ethical and legal aspects of web search.

With the exascale computing era on the verge of dawning, perhaps you could review progress on the innovation partnership you have with HPE and Lenovo to build a new supercomputer (code-named ExaMUC). How far along is the project, and could you describe some of the technologies being explored?

The innovation partnership is a unique approach to how procuring HPC systems is done in Germany or Europe. The general idea is to do the procurement in phases. In the first phase, the contenders develop prototypes in a co-design effort. The second phase is intended to actually procure the system. In our case, we kicked off this process and performed the prototyping phase with two partners, Lenovo and HPE. However, due to the current market situation, we were not able to get an offer that matched all essential criteria for the actual tender in the second phase of the innovation partnership. So, we are currently preparing a new procurement.

But to make it crystal clear, the innovation partnership approach is great in and of itself. All partners involved have gained a lot of expertise and know-how from it. I can only speak for LRZ, but the co-design phase opened a lot of doors for us and pushed forward our future computing efforts.

We are currently integrating the components of the prototypes developed by HPE and Lenovo into our future computing testbed BEAST — basically the latest of the latest on the hardware market from various vendors, including innovative specialty hardware like NextSilicon. Our experts continue their experiments on, for example, user codes or energy efficiency. And not to forget, we work with students at the Munich universities to train them early on on the latest hardware. So, we are sure that the effort was worthwhile and definitely informs the upcoming call for tender.

LRZ has been a leader in Europe’s effort to develop quantum computing technologies and to integrate them into advanced HPC environments. Could you give us an update on the Euro-Q-Exa project and efforts to deploy an IQM Spark system at LRZ?

With Euro-Q-Exa, we are one of the hosting sites of a EuroHPC Joint Undertaking Quantum Computer. Our goal is integrating quantum with supercomputing, and at present, we are in the running for procurement of the quantum provider. Obviously, we cannot give any details at this point in time.

The IQM Spark system is a different story. With IQM, we have a long-term partnership on projects. In this context, we have installed two IQM quantum computers, DAQC and Q-EXA. In principle, they are predecessors of the commercial product that IQM now offers as Spark. For that reason, we currently have no plans to install IQM Spark, as we are happy with DAQC and Q-Exa.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM, and what advice would you give to young people who wish to follow in your footsteps?

My father wanted me to study law. But already as a child, I liked taking things apart to understand how they work — be it the kitchen radio or a hair dryer. In high-school, there was a teacher who noticed and encouraged my talent for mathematics and computer science. Ever since, computer science has never let go of me.

My advice is to do what you are passionate about and don’t be afraid to go down paths that no one around you has gone before you. Trust your own instincts and try it.

Outside of the professional sphere, what can you tell us about yourself – unique hobbies, favorite places, etc.? Is there anything about you your colleagues might be surprised to learn?

Apart from different kinds of sports, my kids are the center of my life outside of work.

People to Watch 2024

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