HLRS to Improve Urgent Computing Capabilities

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Image: Brian McGowan via Unsplash

Supercomputing infrastructure and expertise could support government agencies in quickly reacting to future pandemics, extreme weather events, and other crises.

Stuttgart, Germany — November 30, 2021 — In a new project called CIRCE (Computational Immediate Response Center for Emergencies), the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS), under the auspices of the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing, will undertake a study to assess the need for and potential applications of high-performance computing (HPC) in crisis situations. The three-year project will identify situations such as pandemics, natural disasters, and migration events in which simulation, high-performance data analytics, and artificial intelligence could support decision making in government. It will also determine what organizational procedures are needed to ensure that HPC resources are immediately available at HLRS when emergency situations arise.


CIRCE is co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Science and Education (BMBF) and the State of Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art (MWK).

HLRS Director Michael Resch explained, "Especially in crisis situations, simulation has an important role to play in supporting political decision making. To achieve this goal, we will bring our collected expertise together and create concepts that will make it possible to put our high-performance computing infrastructure to work quickly and efficiently."

HPC used for monitoring COVID-19 and addressing global challenges

The need for a project like CIRCE became evident in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic required the German government to react quickly to prevent an overload of capacity in its health care system. In April of that year, hardware and software experts at HLRS worked together with simulation experts in the Federal Institute for Population Research (Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung, BiB) to quickly implement a model on HLRS's supercomputer that predicts demand for intensive care units across Germany up to 4 weeks in advance. This tool, which continues to run on HLRS's Hawk supercomputer and delivers daily information to the federal government once every week, has helped policy makers in decision making concerning public health management related to the pandemic. CIRCE also builds on expertise that HLRS has been gathering in the HIDALGO project, a European Center of Excellence focused on developing high-performance computing and big data technologies to address global challenges. HLRS has been providing computing infrastructure and expertise to international research partners who are investigating new simulation-based approaches for forecasting migration events and urban air pollution, and for identifying and preventing the spread of false information in social networks.

Identifying urgent computing needs and closing gaps

In the CIRCE project, HLRS will build on these experiences to identify and communicate additional needs for high-performance computing and data analytics resources for crisis management. Through workshops, interviews, and focus groups, the center will build closer contacts with potential partners at the federal and state levels. These exploratory meetings will enable HLRS to better understand how simulation could help address the needs of public authorities and what specific kinds of forecasting tools would provide the greatest benefit. Discussions will also focus on what data government agencies have available and could provide as a basis for predictive tools running on HLRS's systems. 

CIRCE will also investigate specific scenarios in which high-performance computing, high-performance data analytics, and artificial intelligence could be implemented during crises. This will include conducting proof-of-concept tests focusing on representative applications of HPC in emergencies. Through these efforts, HLRS intends to gain a better understanding of what activities and procedures are needed to quickly address urgent computing needs, and what current gaps in preparedness currently exist.

In the end, these efforts will prepare HLRS to support government agencies in their responses to future crises, maximizing the usefulness of its HPC systems and expertise for helping to keep people safe and protect critical infrastructures.

About the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart

The High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) was established in 1996 as the first German national high-performance computing center, building on a tradition of supercomputing at the University of Stuttgart that stretches back to 1959. As a research institution affiliated with the University of Stuttgart and a founding member of the Gauss Centre for Supercomputing — the alliance of Germany's three national supercomputing centers — HLRS provides state-of-the-art HPC services to academic users and industry. HLRS operates one of Europe's most powerful supercomputers, provides advanced training in HPC programming and simulation, and conducts research to address key problems facing the future of supercomputing. Among HLRS's areas of expertise are parallel programming, numerical methods for HPC, visualization, grid and cloud computing concepts, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. Users of HLRS computing systems are active across a wide range of disciplines, with an emphasis on computational engineering and applied science.

Expert Contact

Prof. Dr. Michael Resch, High-Performance Computing Center of the University of Stuttgart (HLRS), Tel.: +49 711 685-87200, resch@hlrs.de