The distribution of computational resources closely follows the technological and industrial development of a country. In other words, computational power is an indicator of technological advancement. All the fields of science and engineering, as well as finance and some of the humanities require access to world-class computational facilities to remain competitive. The Eastern Mediterranean region is particularly lacking in this area: with a population approximately equal to that of the United States, it has just 1% of the world’s computational capacity compared to 43% for the United States.
The Computation-based Science and Technology Research Center (CaSToRC) of The Cyprus Institute motivated by the lack of computational facilities in the Eastern Mediterranean region, secured a €1.1 million strategic infrastructure project in 2011, to develop a national computational facility similar to the ones that most European countries have established decades ago.
With the funding provided through this project, the High Performance Computing Facility was inaugurated in 2012, with the installation of Cy-Tera, the largest open-access supercomputer in the region.
The mission of the High Performance Computing Facility is to provide compute and data resources to the research community of Cyprus as well as the Eastern Mediterranean region and to be established as the national supercomputing facility.
In addition, the Facility provides high-level support and training for scientists in the region, extensive data-storage and analysis capabilities as well as access to Cloud resources. Access to the facility is free and open to all scientists in the Eastern Mediterranean and subject to a peer-review process.
High Performance Computing Facility Resources
IBM Hybrid CPU/GPU cluster
98 twelve-core compute nodes
18 dual-GPU compute nodes
Infiniband QDR (40Gb/s) Interconnect
48 GB memory per node
OpenStack Cloud infrastructure
The HPCF provides HPC resources to hundreds of users in the region. With support for 600+ software packages, multilevel user support and cutting edge infrastructure, the Facility has made HPC accessible to a region with very little computational resources and expertise.
Since May 2012, 244 scientists accessed this large scale computational facility and performed computations for a total of 286 scientific projects. The scientific simulations performed on Cy-Tera during the four years of its operation would have need approximately 2000 years on a conventional computer.
Data storage, processing and curation services through cutting-edge Cloud-based services
The Data explosion especially impacts science. As the data grows in volume, variety and velocity innovative storage and processing solutions come into play. By employing a wealth of purpose-built systems using GPFS®, BeeGFS®, ZFS®, OpenStack and Ceph®, the HPCF aims to provide the right HPC, Data and Cloud tools for each scientific workload. The total storage capacity of the facility is around 1.8 PB.
Training and user support
A HPC training program has been developed, to support new and existing users from the Eastern Mediterranean region. In total 64 training events were organised, covering fundamental HPC topics needed by a wide spectrum of the computational science community and more advanced topics in specific fields such as climate research, digital cultural heritage and synchrotron radiation applications. Additionally, support is constantly provided to the users in a basic and intermediate level. Advanced user support for specific thematic areas is provided by researchers of the Cyprus Institute.
Types of Access
- Production Access
Production Access is for projects that satisfy a scientific research objective. The applications undergo a technical and scientific review. There are 2 calls for proposals per year and access is given for 12 months. In general, such a call is for experienced users where the codes necessary for the project are available on the system requested and/or, in case of codes developed by the applicants, have been sufficiently tested for efficiency, scalability, and suitability (either via proposals for preparatory access or on a similar system).
- Preparatory Access
Preparatory Access allows researchers to test and optimise their codes before applying for Production Access. The call for proposals is a rolling call, there are no closing dates. The applications undergo only a light technical review. Access is given for 6 months.
- Educational Access
Educational Access is provided for training and educational purposes. Access is given for 6 months to students or researchers who are in the early stages of learning HPC or to university lecturers who would like to incorporate HPC into their courses for their students.
Exploiting the High Performance Computing Facility, CaSToRC secured in 2010 a 4-year European funded infrastructure program of a total budget of € 2.5 million to lead the development of high performance facilities and computational science in the Eastern Mediterranean. The project with the name Linking Scientific Computing in Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean (LinkSCEEM) included two computational facilities in Egypt in addition to the Cy-Tera supercomputer. Among other activities, the project funded training programs for scientists in the region. Many workshops have been organized by CaSToRC personnel throughout the project duration. Scientists from the region but also around Europe were funded to attend the workshops, positioning CaSToRC within the European landscape and establishing it as a bridge between Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Since 2008, CaSToRC represents Cyprus in the Pan-European infrastructure project PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced
Computing in Europe. Along with 20 other European countries, PRACE aims to provide a common computer infrastructure across Europe. CaSToRC’s participation opens up the opportunity to all Cypriot researchers to access the largest available supercomputers currently being operated in Germany and France. The Cy-Tera facility in combination with training programs designed by CaSToRC provide higher level training for machines more powerful than Cy-Tera so that the Cypriot community can take advantage of the European infrastructure available through PRACE and participate in relevant competitive European projects.
Since 2015, CaSToRC is a partner of VI-SEEM, a 3-year H2020 European funded project, that aims at creating a unique Virtual Research Environment (VRE) in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean (SEEM), in order to facilitate regional interdisciplinary collaboration, with special focus on the scientific communities of Life Sciences, Climatology and Digital Cultural Heritage. VI-SEEM builds on the success of its predecessor e-Infrastructure projects that have been crucial for enabling high-quality research & ICT developments by providing networking and computational resources, application support and training, in both South East Europe and Eastern Mediterranean, and have supported the European vision of inclusive and smart growth, based on knowledge and innovation, enriching the European Research Area.
The High Performance Computing Facility supports numerous other projects through computation and storage resources.
A successor to the Cy-Tera supercomputer, based on the latest Accelerators, CPU‘s and Interconnect is being designed and is planned to be in place in 2017.