PRACE: Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe

PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) is creating a persistent pan-European HPC service, based on an infrastructure of around 4-5 Petaflop-scale supercomputers.

There are PRACE partners in most European countries who work on activities ranging from the governance and legal framework for the future infrastructure, through dissemination and training, to a number of technical activities looking at possible hardware and software for Petascale systems.

Software for Petaflop systems and beyond

EPCC has a leading role in investigating software for Petaflop-scale systems and has overall responsibility for the relevant work package; this is the largest technical activity and involves nearly all the PRACE partners. The work package is responsible for investigating the software on future Petaflop systems and a key goal is to identify and understand the software libraries, tools, benchmarks and skills required by users to ensure that their application can use a Petaflop scale system productively and efficiently. Analysing the application requirements for these systems is a major challenge but is vital to ensure the systems meet the needs of European researchers. The prevalence of multi-core technology indicates means that future systems will have hundreds of thousands of cores. Many heavy-used applications codes are not yet able to effectively exploit these large numbers of cores.

Another key element of this activity is ensuring that the major applications codes used across Europe can exploit these large systems. PRACE has performed and analysed surveys of the major European HPC systems, the key applications and the major users of such systems to build a complete picture of the requirements for future production systems.

These survey results were used to identify a list of benchmark applications that:

  • are representative of the current usage of HPC systems in Europe
  • span the scientific areas which exploit HPC
  • include examples of the various classes of algorithms
  • are widely used across Europe.

These representative applications have been a focus for the applications-enabling activity. They have already been used to analyse the key characteristics and requirements of European applications, and communicating these to the work packages responsible for prototype hardware. The initial analysis of the applications developed into more detailed work in Petascaling and optimisation for these applications as well as a general investigation into the techniques required to exploit future systems. We also investigate the software libraries and programming models required by the applications and how this will translate to the Petascale domain. The representative applications are intended to form a benchmark suite that will be made available by PRACE. This benchmark suite has been used to help evaluate prototype systems, and may also be used in future Petascale procurements.

PRACE is a great opportunity to demonstrate that Europe’s top HPC centres can collaborate effectively to the benefit of researchers. EPCC is happy to be active in this collaboration and to take responsibility for an important work package ensuring that applications codes can efficiently use future large systems.

Further information

PRACE project website

EPCC blog posts related to PRACE