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Meet Fionn - Ireland’s Latest Supercomputer

Posted on 14 November 2013

Fionn supercomputer logo

[Dublin, Ireland] November 13, 2013  - Today, Minister Seán Sherlock TD, Minister for Research and Innovation and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC, http://www.ichec.ie) announced Ireland’s latest supercomputer called Fionn at the Dunsink Observatory. The name, chosen by Oscar O’Donoghue, a student from DCU CoderDojo, stems from Fionnachtana (Irish for Discovery) and Fionn mac Cumhaill. It aptly reflects the size of the new machine and the new R&D that it will enable.

Presenting the prize for the winning submission in ICHEC’s Name Our Computer competition, Minister Sherlock commented: “Oscar’s competition entry aptly reflects the versatility of the new ICHEC machine and the scope of the R&D that it will enable, while simultaneously placing it firmly within an Irish context.”

Fionn launch prize winners

Left to Right: Oscar O’Donoghue, Lauren Boyle, Maciej Goszczycki, Minister Seán Sherlock TD, Prof. Luke Drury 

An investment of over €3.7M supported by Government through Science Foundation Ireland (http://www.sfi.ie) and €450k from industry, Fionn, a hybrid machine capable of running many different applications and workflows, will quadruple computing resources previously available to scientists in Ireland. Fionn will enable researchers to solve their scientific and industry-related problems quicker by scaling out and scaling up their R&D. Fionn will enable all domains of science from nano material discovery and medical device development to weather forecasting and renewable energy. It is also designed to solve the Big Data challenges of today that require large computing power and large amounts of RAM and storage.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI, said, "Access to data processing power on the scale that the new supercomputer will provide is essential if Ireland is to realise its ambitions in the area of Big Data. The sector is growing by 40% annually and presents a real opportunity for Ireland to leverage the requirements of convergent industries and the capabilities of academia through partnerships that will help create high value jobs. The analytical capability that resources like this new supercomputer will provide can help position Ireland as an international hub for Big Data research."

Fionn is a parallel machine and it is imperative that Ireland produces people with skills to harness this computing power. To this end ICHEC launched its inaugural coding competition aimed at promoting parallel programming. The challenge was set to take image processing computer code and make it run in parallel to take advantage of modern multi core processors. The Minister presented the winning prize to Maciej Goszczycki who met the challenge and showed great skill in completing it. Maciej regularly attends the TCD Science Gallery CoderDojo in Dublin.

 “The whole CoderDojo community is thrilled Maciej's achievement in winning the challenge, which was no trivial matter and it is a fine Irish name that has been chosen full of meaning and yet matching the CoderDojo ethos of "Be Cool!"  We look forward to other CoderDojo young people also gaining insights into the world of coding for modern parallel supercomputers.” – Bill Liao, CoderDojo Founder

Fionn is made up of four components: Thin, Hybrid, Fat and Service nodes with over 8,400 compute cores and 24TBs of RAM. The new machine will run non-stop for the next four years. It will provide an estimated 295,000,000 hours of computation not counting the power of the accelerators! Fionn provides access to the latest technology from Intel, Ivy Bridge processors along with Xeon Phi coprocessors, coupled to high performance storage from DataDirect Networks (DDN), to researchers across Ireland. “Supercomputers are the key to innovation and development. Our new national supercomputer, named Fionn, is being launched today and we are pleased to bring this new supercomputer to Ireland’s innovators. We look forward to supporting the new breakthroughs that this piece of national infrastructure will enable across academia and industry.” said Prof. JC Desplat, ICHEC Director

The supercomputer was purchased from SGI (http://www.sgi.com; CA, USA. NASDAQ: SGI) with the storage provided by DDN (http://www.ddn.com; CA, USA. EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Ireland). Fionn is installed at the TSSG (http://www.tssg.org/) data centre in Waterford Institute of Technology. ICHEC manages its operation and access is granted through a peer review process run by the ICHEC Science Council.

“ICHEC is providing the computing resources and expertise to the Irish academic and industrial research community to develop the large scale simulations required to tackle fundamental scientific questions and to advance engineering design; often these scientific and engineering questions are intertwined. ICHEC's initiatives to engage young students by opening windows on high performance computing helps ensure that Ireland's next generation of researchers will be well aware of the modern computing technologies at their disposal that will support them in solving future challenges.” – Prof. Jim Greer, Head of Tyndall Graduate Studies, Tyndall Institute and Chairman of the ICHEC Science Council

Details of both competitions aimed at primary and secondary students can be found here: http://nameourcomputer.ichec.ie/ and http://nameourcomputer.ichec.ie/superCoderContest.html plus a short video, http://youtu.be/35p5wGevzVY, commissioned for its launch.


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