The launch of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking in 2018 marked the start of a new, Europe-wide approach to high-performance computing (HPC). By facilitating closer coordination at the level of infrastructure and resource allocation (PRACE), technology development (European Processor Initiative), and the development of advanced software (Centres of Excellence for HPC Applications), EuroHPC set out to build a sustainable and globally competitive European HPC ecosystem.
As EuroHPC developed, however, it became clear that one essential component of a comprehensive European HPC strategy was missing: namely, a consistently high level of expertise across Europe in high-performance computing and related disciplines such as high-performance data analytics and artificial intelligence.
To begin laying a foundation for addressing this need, EuroHPC, under the auspices of the European Union's Horizon 2020 fund, has approved a proposal from the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing (GCS) to create a Europe-wide network of national HPC competence centers, called EuroCC.
As the project took shape, 33 participating member states each designated one HPC center as a national competence center. Approximately half of the funding to support the creation of each competence center is being provided by the EU, while the other half will come from the individual country. The first phase of the project will last for two years and start officially on September 1, 2020.
Each competence center will undertake an audit of HPC competencies at the national level, identifying available expertise and knowledge gaps across the country. Over time, the competence centers will become national resources for identifying and coordinating technical knowledge, training resources, industrial outreach, and HPC services and tools for all computing centers in their home countries.
Simultaneously, HLRS, together with GCS, CINECA, TERATEC, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, and PRACE, will lead a closely related coordination and support activity called CASTIEL (Coordination and Support for National Competence Centres on a European Level). While EuroCC coordinates HPC expertise within each member state, CASTIEL will lead activities to promote interaction and the exchange of expertise across the entire EuroCC network.
Following the inventories of competencies at the national level, CASTIEL will develop a Europe-wide competency map that will catalog both available resources and knowledge gaps across all EuroCC competence centers. Once needs and opportunities are identified, it will then coordinate activities such as international workshops, mentoring and twinning partnerships, and topic-specific working groups to address issues of shared interest.
Such activities, the project organizers anticipate, will promote Europe-wide knowledge sharing and the identification of new kinds of productive synergies. They might involve, for example, train-the-trainer programs focused on promoting the wider adoption of advanced programming methods and best practices in HPC center operation. The improved international dialogue could also lead to regional collaborations between centers in which resources are shared to address complementary needs.
Because HPC centers in different countries have different levels of engagement with industry, another important component of CASTIEL will involve providing knowledge and expertise necessary to address HPC needs for industrial R&D. This could include mentoring by centers with experience in supporting industry, as well as international meetings in which industrial HPC users present case studies of successful applications. Such meetings could not only enable national competence centers to better understand and address the specific needs of industrial HPC users, but also help them to convince local stakeholders of the benefits of investing in HPC technologies and resources.
"EuroCC and CASTIEL have two complementary goals," says HLRS Managing Director Bastian Koller, who is leading the coordination of the two projects. "On the one hand, we hope that we will empower the participating countries to develop the expertise they need to become more technologically independent. On the other, countries that have already developed a broad base of expertise will also learn from these international interactions. By raising the knowledge level and improving communication across borders, we see a lot of potential to raise the productivity and impact of HPC all across Europe for academic research, industry, and public administration."
This article also appears in the Spring 2020 issue of InSiDE Magazine.