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Institution Specific Access

The Condominium Shared Services model

Condominium access is an important part of the HPC national service that ICHEC provides to the research community. A condominium share is a fractional allocation of the computing resources of the central national HPC system. A number of institutions are already using this approach on ICHEC’s existing Fionn infrastructure to provide institutional access and all of these institutions are very satisfied with the model. In effect, a condo permits institutions to grant resources directly to their researchers as if it was a local cluster. The condos presently allocated on the national research infrastructure are outlined in the table below.

Institution No. Shares No. Cores
DCU 1 115
DIAS 2 230
NUIG 2 230
NUIM 2 230
UCD 3 345
UL 1 115
UCC-Tyndall 1 115

The condominium model is an ideal, value-for-money shared service. The ‘local/HEI-based’ cluster is managed by ICHEC’s highly experienced system administrators centrally rather than a ‘physical local cluster’ managed by less experienced local staff. These ‘local’ staff are more often than not postdoctoral researchers whose effort could or should be more advantageously employed in the computational modeling laboratory.

The full benefits of the condominium, shared services model can be summarized as follows:

  • The HEIs save on procurement overheads for the equipment.
  • ICHEC’s deal with the vendor provides the HEIs with a cluster at a significantly lower cost compared to buying similar equipment directly as a stand-alone system.
  • ICHEC guarantees that the institution obtains its own institutional cluster, managed by highly experienced ICHEC staff; local human resources are not diverted to managing the cluster.
  • For the HEIs, significant savings are also made on storage, as well as on the supporting infrastructure and software (management nodes, login nodes, interconnect, software licenses, etc.); these are purchased by ICHEC as part of the centralised service.
  • Hosting and systems administration overheads are costed centrally leading to significant savings. Apart from the initial capital cost of the condo and storage, the only additional costs for the institution are the monthly electricity costs charged pro rata to the size of the condo.
  • Central purchasing of up-to-date, tuned tools, libraries, application software lead to significant savings for HEIs who do not have responsibility for either purchasing or maintaining the software.
  • The condo provides a natural progression from Tier 2 (“local”) to Tier 1 (“national”) compute systems, facilitating access to internationally competitive resources (e.g., PRACE Tier-0 and 1 systems).
  • In summary, the condominium model leads to significant savings in management and administrative overheads for the institutions and funding agencies alike. It represents a realistic and effective road map for the provision of high-end compute resources within a shared services framework for the national research community and in terms of locally-controlled access, it meets the objectives and needs of the HEIs.

    It is also worth noting that this model was also strongly endorsed by panels of international experts convened by SFI as part of its mid-term review of ICHEC (Q4-2011) and by the HEA for its “Review of the Provision of High Performance Computing in Ireland”.


    The condominium model from the HEIs’ and researchers’ perspective

    While ICHEC operates the condo system as (a seamless) part of the complete cluster, ICHEC staff provides helpdesk and software provision to support condo users in the same way as if the users were accessing the national service. That said, ICHEC staff do not grant direct access to the condos. Each institution involved has a local point of contact for its researchers. These local contacts manage access to its condo.

    Condominium users are also entitled to hold national service project resources. Mixing usage between both mechanisms is very straightforward. Jobs are submitted to the system via PBS scripts in the normal way. A condo or project can provide the hours simply be changing the account following the -A directive to a project code or the condo code as listed in the above table e.g. using the University of Limerick Condo #PBS -A ul01

    Institution Contact Details
    DCU https://www.dcu.ie/iss/ichec-account-request.shtml
    DIAS ichec@dias.ie
    NUIG Noreen Goggin
    NUIM https://hpcgroup.nuim.ie
    UCD Research IT Services
    UL Richard.Cotterell
    UCC_Tyndall Simon Elliott