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PRACE Prototype Projects

The PRACE project is a European body that aims to co-ordinate access to the very largest computer systems at a European level. The PRACE prototype systems are prototypes for future petascale HPC systems to be installed in Europe. A petascale computer has a peak performance of a petaflop or greater, a petaflop is a quadrillion floating point operations per second.

PRACE has issued calls for proposals to European reserchers to gain early access to these systems. The aim of the program is not to conduct production science but rather to test and improve the ability of codes to exploit the power of these new systems. The scale of the systems makes this a challenge. Doing this pioneering work allows the systems to be evaluated objectively while the host institutes learn to operate them effectively and at the same time researchers can plan future research programmes based on real world results.

In 2009 a total of 9 projects from across Europe were granted access through two calls. Of these 5 were from Irish researchers. The approach taken by all these researchers has been to partner with ICHEC to prepare their applications and to act as co-investigators. The great benefit of this is combining the expertise of ICHEC staff with that of researchers. ICHEC's experience with HPC systems can get the team working productively on unfamiliar systems quickly and helps with the optimisation process. While the researchers can focus on their domain specific knowledge.

The 5 Irish projects were collectively awarded circa 8.7 million core hours, about 97% of the total time awarded in the first two calls. The sucessful principal investigators are as follows:

  • Dr. Niall English, University College Dublin
  • Dr. Turlough Downes, Dublin City University
  • Dr. Damien Thompson, Tyndall National Institute
  • Prof. James Greer, Tyndall National Institute
  • Prof. Gary McGuire, University College Dublin

If you are interested in getting access to PRACE facilities, details of the proposal calls to date can be found here.

The following screenshot is a sample of the work that this access scheme enables. It shows the llview queue monitoring software showing a job being run by Dr. Downes on the entire JUGENE machine. This system has 294,912 cores.

Screenshot of full Jugene system job