Wirtschaft Trifft Wissenschaft: Mid-Sized Businesses Get to Know HLRS

30 May 2017

The High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) welcomed visitors from industry interested in learning how HLRS supports innovation for small and medium-sized technology companies.

Titled "Supercomputer - auch für den Mittelstand relevant!" (Supercomputing: It's for Mid-Sized Businesses, Too!) the event was organized by the IHK Region Stuttgart in cooperation with HLRS and SICOS BW GmbH. It offered a rare opportunity for technology directors from the local business community to get a behind-the-scenes look at HLRS and to learn more about the services it provides.

How HLRS Supports the Mid-Sized Sector

Giving small to medium-sized companies in the region access to high-performance computing (HPC) has become an important part of HLRS's mission. This is because in addition to being the home of major global brands like Daimler, Porsche, and Bosch, the German state of Baden-Württemberg thrives on an ecosystem made up of hundreds of smaller, high-tech precision engineering companies. Simulation and Big Data analysis increasingly play indispensable roles in industry, efficiently facilitating the design of better products and delivering crucial competitive advantages. At the same time, however, smaller companies rarely have the resources to invest in their own HPC infrastructures or in personnel with specialized expertise in the field, making it difficult to take advantage of these opportunities.

For these reasons, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research, and Art has been supporting efforts to fill this gap. Among these are SICOS BW, a spin-off company founded in 2011 by the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and based onsite at HLRS. SICOS BW provides training and advice for small and mid-sized businesses interested in HPC, works one-on-one with businesses to develop concrete plans for using HPC, and connects them to crucial expertise in HPC that they might not have in-house.

"Our goal is to accelerate access to high-performance computing and simulation," says SICOS BW Director Andreas Wierse. "For smaller companies, there is always an initial sense of inhibition that needs to be overcome. We try to help them jump over barriers that might seem insurmountable and to gain the knowledge and resources they need to integrate high-performance computing into their practices." The May event was one instance of this ongoing outreach.

Going Behind the Scenes at HLRS

Attendees were welcomed by Wierse and HLRS Director Michael Resch, who provided an overview of HLRS's computing systems and its various activities. Later, the visitors received a tour of the HLRS computer room, home of Hazel Hen, the European Union's fastest supercomputer. The last stop was the CAVE, a facility offering an immersive 3D environment for visualizing and interacting with simulation data. The visitors had a chance to explore several compelling sample visualizations to gain an appreciation of how they contribute to the process of product design.

Participants were very engaged throughout the event, asking many questions to better understand high-performance computing and simulation, as well as how the services that SICOS BW and HLRS offer could benefit their own work. One sign of their interest was that the event ran nearly an hour longer than anticipated, due to lively conversations about the state of the art in supercomputing and the ways in which it is transforming small industry.

Christopher Williams