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Starting a European Research Infrastructure

Over 60 representatives from 14 European Countries held the kick-off meeting of the PRACE project at the Research Centre Jülich on January 29 and 30, 2008. PRACE lays the foundations for a future European supercomputer infrastructure.

At the end of 2007 the project received a grant from the European Commission towards a total budget of 20 Mio € for the coming two years. Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research opened the event.

PRACE, the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, has been established to create a persistent pan-European High Performace Computing service for research. In the preparatory phase, which will run until the end of 2009, the project will establish the basis of transnational organisational structure for scientific supercomputing in Europe. By bringing together the know-how and resources of the partners, PRACE could provide European researchers with access to supercomputing capacities at a world-class level, transgressing those affordable at the national level. This includes a coordinated approach to hardware procurement and potentially a European platform for the development of hardware and software jointly with industry. Close cooperation with national and regional computer centres and scientific organisations will ease access to computing resources at all levels for scientists and engineers from academia and industry.

To achieve these challenging goals, the researchers from the partner organisations will work out the details of the project work during the kick-off meeting in Jülich. One task is to define a suitable legal form and organisational structure for the permanent European HPC infrastructure. Key to success of the project are the technical developments required to enable operation of a distributed supercomputing infrastructure, the scaling and optimisation of application software, and the evaluation of prototypes of the future computers. PRACE aims to install a petaflop/s system as early as 2009, i.e. a computer capable of performing one thousand trillion operations per second.

The availability of computing power is increasingly becoming a critical factor for success in science and industry: whether we're dealing with the climate, genetics or engineering researchers are relying more and more on advanced computing power to stay at the forefront of international competition

"Science and industry need computing power of the highest quality – on the one hand, to conduct pioneering research, and on the other, to create innovations", explained Prof. Achim Bachem, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Research Centre Jülich and coordinator of the PRACE project. "Supercomputers have become an essential tool for all of the sciences", said Bachem before going on to say that "in future, giant leaps in knowledge will only be possible with the help of complex simulations". The aim of PRACE is to provide scientists in Europe with unlimited and independent access to fast supercomputers and competent support.

The following countries collaborate in the PRACE project: Germany, UK, France, Spain, Finland, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Through close cooperation with established European research organisations like, ESF, EMBL, and ESA PRACE will be embedded into the European Research Area.

The PRACE project receives funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° RI-211528

Leena Jukka | alfa
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