The ETP4HPC Workshop at ISC'17 in Frankfurt, Germany provided us with an excellent occasion to interview Martin Palkovic from IT4Innovations, the National Supercomputing Centre in the Czech Republic. IT4Innovations is both serving as a cycle provider, distributing cycles to mostly Czech academia but also industry, and as an expertise provider, helping the customers, either from academia or industry, with HPC. IT4Innovations is also involved in education and R&D. The Centre has 80 full-time equivalents in R&D. It is participating in several European projects. IT4Innovations is also part of PRACE as the Czech representative and member of ETP4HPC. To Martin Palkovic's knowledge, IT4Innovations is the only Intel Parallel Computing Center in the new Member States of the European Union. IT4Innovations is also part of SesameNet, which is one of the Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) in the Horizon2020 Programme.
IT4Innovations is relatively new. It was established in 2011 with the help of structural funds. In 2013, the first system of just below 100 Teraflops was installed as a small start-up system. In 2015, the large system of 1,5 Petaflop Linpack system was installed. That system scored in the TOP500 rank 14. Now, it has dropped to rank 78 after two years. It was special in Europe because it was heavily accelerated with Xeon Phi - Knights Corner. IT4Innovations had the largest system in Europe with this technology. Of course, in the meantime, the largest system is now Marconi at Cineca in Italy with this Intel technology. However, it was then the first time in Czech history that a system appeared so high in the TOP500. In the past, at the start of the millenium, there was some telecom operator but it was pretty low in the TOP500. So, IT4Innovations really made a point in Europe and the Centre would like to continue and really provide strong HPC within the Czech Republic.
IT4Innovations is a generic centre that supports all types of applications including computational fluid dynamics (CFD), structural mechanics, computational chemistry, and so on. The Czech Republic is very strong in computational chemistry such as in the modelling of new drugs where you have very strong power users in Brno and also in Prague at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, and all modelling of materials. This represents more than 50 percent of the centre's load currently.
We asked what the involvement of IT4Innovations in ETP4HPC is.
Martin Palkovic answered that if one looks at the goal of extreme-scale demonstrators that were discussed during the ETP4HPC Workshop, the aim is to integrate the effort that Europe made till now and will make in the HPC domain. IT4Innovations is participating in several European projects related to HPC. Particularly in FET HPC 1, IT4Innovations is participating in 3 projects, which are READEX, ANTAREX and ExCAPE. As a national supercomputing centre, IT4Innovations would like to contribute to European HPC. This means that the technology developed in FET HPC, together with applications developed in the Centers of Excellence in collaboration with the vendors and with the supercomputing centres, all works together in nice ecosystems and reaches the European exascale.
On the Czech level, IT4Innovations is part of the Czech roadmap with regard to the large research infrastructures. Everybody is aware of the ESFRI roadmap which goes to the national level. There, you have the Czech roadmap at the national level on the large research infrastructures. IT4Innovations as the National Supercomputing Centre is part of this roadmap with the role to provide the state-of-the-art HPC for the Czech academia and industry potential.
We wanted to know how Martin Palkovic saw the future of supercomputing and exascale in the Czech Republic and in Europe.
Martin Palkovic answered that IT4Innovations is following the efforts that are happening in the US, in China and in Japan. Europe, currently and in the recent past, has made strong statements that it also wants to follow a clear path towards exascale. IT4Innovations is welcoming this and would like to contribute to this and help Europe to reach the exascale as planned by the European Commission.
We remarked that a few months ago, seven European countries - and meanwhile there are eight - formed the EuroHPC initiative. What are the plans for the Czech Republic here?
Martin Palkovic confirmed that this was end of March 2017 and that he was present when the signature was done in Rome. This is a political step to contribute to European HPC. The Czech Republic is supporting this step and is discussing it. Martin Palkovic hoped that the Czech Republic would also become part of EuroHPC in the future. Currently, there are seven countries and recently, Belgium also joined, so there are eight countries. Martin Palkovic hoped that this will spread in Europe and also, that the initiatives in Europe will be synchronized because there are several initiatives and one has to make sure that everything works smoothly together with ETP4HPC, PRACE, EuroHPC, IPCA, and IPCEI.