A milestone of national collaboration
16 March 2023
In October 2021, the Joint Science Conference of the German federal and state governments decided to include the NHR South-West consortium – consisting of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), Goethe University Frankfurt, and Saarland University – in the National High Performance Computing Alliance (NHR). With the inauguration of the new high-performance computer MOGON NHR South-West at JGU, the alliance has taken another important step towards establishing a powerful, modern research infrastructure that will promote high performance computing throughout Germany. NHR South-West will be funded to the tune of EUR 7.5 million through the National High Performance Computing program of the German federal and state governments, with the state of Rhineland-Palatinate contributing EUR 3.75 million of this alone.
"NHR South-West has been able to make significant progress in further expanding its technical computing power. The new computer helps NHR South-West ensure that not only researchers at the four participating universities, but from all over Germany have sufficient computing capacity for their work. The use of high-performance computers has long since become indispensable in many fields of research due to the large volumes of data and the complexity of simulation calculations," said Clemens Hoch, Rhineland-Palatinate's Minister of Science.
"Fundamental research in the natural and life sciences requires sufficiently dimensioned computing resources," emphasized Professor Stefan Müller-Stach, Vice President for Research and Early Career Academics at Mainz University. "Working groups in many scientific disciplines depend on powerful high-performance computers to maintain and further extend their predominant position in various fields of research. Thus, we are very pleased to have this cutting-edge IT infrastructure at hand – in face of the increasing competition among universities both nationally and internationally in general and especially in the field of data processing."
The new MOGON NHR South-West high-performance computer will enable research groups from all over Germany to apply for computing time for their research in the fields of high-energy physics, condensed matter physics, and the life sciences.
HPC systems are indispensable to research
At the inauguration ceremony for the high-performance computer, Professor Friederike Schmid explained the need for HPC, taking as an example the Multiscale Simulation Methods for Soft Matter Systems research project. As a member of the corresponding Collaborative Research Center funded by the German Research Foundation, she is investigating soft matter in various size and time scales. The research team can now use the computing power of MOGON NHR South-West for their simulations.
Soft matter is present everywhere – in plastics, rubber, and paper, in biological membranes and proteins, in complex liquids such as oil, paint, and liquid crystals. The versatility and responsiveness of soft materials make them attractive for numerous potential applications. "The long-term goal of our research is to upgrade multiscale techniques so they can be used in routine simulations of real-world soft material applications. Multiscale techniques are used to solve problems where important processes occur in different magnitudes in space and / or time. We aim to be able to make predictions and suggestions as to how material properties can be tangibly improved, and we can only do that with powerful computers running in the background," Schmid added.
Technical specifications of MOGON NHR South-West
The new HPC cluster will be available to researchers from all over Germany for complex computing operations and the analysis of large amounts of data. With 590 computing nodes, 75,000 CPU cores, and a main memory or RAM of 186 TB as well as a file server with 8,000 TB (8 petabytes), the system can perform data-intensive processes and model simulations simultaneously. Two AMD processors (AMD EPYC 7713) are available for each node, with 64 cores per processor. Ten computing nodes are equipped with four A100 each for special HPC workloads. The computing nodes are interconnected via an HDR Infiniband network. Above else, the use of HDR Infiniband, a special network interface standard, offers very high transmission rates.
To build the new cluster, NHR South-West will receive EUR 7.5 million from the National High Performance Computing program, jointly funded by the German federal and state governments. The program is designed to support so-called Tier-2 computing centers, i.e., high performance computing centers with a primarily nationwide outreach. By establishing the NHR, the federal and state governments are jointly promoting and bundling the set-up and expansion of high-performance computing centers within a national network.
High-performance computing for various disciplines
Powerful supercomputers are becoming increasingly important in research and science. Given the increasingly complex and expanding amounts of data, researchers in a wide range of disciplines are more dependent than ever on high-performance computers. More and more research questions, for example in medicine, physics and chemistry, can now only be resolved with the help of large computing capacities and intelligent applications. That is why, in 2018, the German federal and state governments decided to build a Germany-wide National High Performance Computing Alliance (NHR) to bundle and further expand the existing strengths of high-performance computing centers. Its establishment as a coordinated alliance was a response to the increasing demand for high-performance computing as it enables researchers at universities to access the computing capacities they need for their specific work irrespective of their corresponding locations.
This National High Performance Computing program will also help to further develop and better coordinate the technical and methodological strengths of high-performance computing centers in Germany. At the same time, training and continuing education courses offered by the nine NHR centers will help introduce more researchers to high-performance computing, enhance the users' skills and promote early-career researchers, enabling these to fully exploit the potential of high-performance computing and to reinforce Germany’s role as a hub of research and innovation. Over the 10-year funding period, a total of EUR 625 million will be made available for National High Performance Computing.