HLRS Receives Donation to Support COVID-Related Research and Urgent Computing

19 April 2021

An enhancement of HLRS's systems with new graphic processing units will improve the center's ability to address the pandemic and other sudden crises.

Computing hardware manufacturer AMD has donated 10 server systems to the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) that will be dedicated for research related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The new resources, which were delivered this week, will also expand HLRS's capacity to address future urgent computing needs.

The donation comes as part of the AMD COVID-19 High Performance Computing Fund, which was established in April 2020 to provide research institutions around the world with computing resources to accelerate medical research on COVID-19 and other diseases. HLRS is among the first European HPC centers to receive a donation under phase two of this program.

The new AMD nodes will be integrated into HLRS's Vulcan cluster. Each of the donated servers contains one AMD EPYC™ processor and eight AMD Instinct™ accelerators, which are optimized for applications involving machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence. The server systems, built by Penguin Computing, will offer 530 TFlops of 64-bit floating-point performance.

Server cabinet with AMD nodes for COVID-19 Research

New nodes donated through the AMD COVID-19 High Performance Computing Fund will support computational research on the pandemic and other global challenges. (Image: HLRS)

The new hardware will support HLRS's activities in the field of Global Systems Science. This includes its participation in the HIDALGO project, a Center of Excellence (CoE) funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Programme, and in the bwHPC-S5 project, funded by the State of Baden-Württemberg.

HLRS Director Michael Resch welcomed the arrival of the new nodes, explaining, "The COVID-19 crisis has been a big wakeup call in Germany and across Europe, showing that new challenges can arise very suddenly and have widespread impacts across societies. Because high-performance computing is increasingly important in scientific disciplines that address such challenges, it is important that HPC centers have sufficient supercomputing capacity to react to sudden and urgent surges in need. We are very happy for this donation from AMD, as it will improve our ability to support scientists in Germany and in the EU who are working to better understand the coronavirus pandemic and provide insights that governments and healthcare organizations can use to address it."

Already, HLRS has begun working with the German Federal Institute for Population Research (Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung) to implement a model for predicting the need for intensive care units across Germany up to eight weeks into the future. The daily "weather report," which will soon run on the newly donated infrastructure, could help health experts and government officials better anticipate when and where interventions such as lockdowns could become necessary — or be lifted — in response to changing stresses on hospitals' resources.

"We are very pleased to see HLRS benefitting from our technology donation and by how they are leveraging their expertise to support Germany’s effort in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic," commented Mario Silveira, Corporate VP AMD EMEA. "The AMD COVID-19 HPC fund is a prime example of how bringing together high-performance computing with esteemed research institutions will help develop innovations that benefit the world.”

The new AMD computing resources at HLRS could potentially support additional research on the pandemic requiring the analysis of large data sets, including topics related to genomics, vaccine development, disease transmission, and epidemiological modeling. Once the current pandemic is past, the new hardware could also enable other kinds of research demanded by future crises, such as those resulting from disease, climate change, or social upheaval.

Christopher Williams