Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where Can I Host An HPC Center ? (Part I)

Hosting such an infrastructure requires lots of space and "think big". Not only the machine but all the infrastructure should be built upon "Lego pieces" that can really scale - and now more than ever help to build something green. Pharaonic designs result into insane bills.

The Safest Hosting Facility Already Built

Today we have known that hosting provider 1and1 is going to build its next datacenter in Hanau Germany, using the space left behind by an old Nuclear Power Plant that was never used before.

In the basque region we got the old Nuclear Power Plant of Lemóniz, a completely built Nuclear Power Plant: it has never been used before so there is no nuclear rubbish inside it. According to the information available on the Wikipedia (spanish version) the building is empty as the machines inside were sold as they were never used.

The safest ready to use hosting facility is in our hand.

What about the power? Can it be green?

Two approaches could be used; in both cases the Basque has enough industrial power to cope with a good solution.

First: This time from Google - the use of shipping containers seems to be power-efficient:

...cooling goes directly through the container -between other ideas proposed by Google like fan controlling-:

...rather than hand-made workarounds that many datacenters have manually implemented:

Second: Lemoniz is by the sea:

... And Tecnalia and Iberdrola two Basque companies have already started a project to develop a wave energy project. Here is a picture of the prototype already installed in Pasajes:

We could not have something better, already built, safer, close to the sea and what is more making use of green energy produced by means of our own developed technology. Other minds already provided solutions so let´s mix & use them.

Update 7th January 2009
The local government has launched BIMEP (Biscay Marine Energy Platform) last 20th of November. The infrastructure is close to Lemoniz as well. Further information in English.

An article published by El Mundo says that the Power Plant belongs to Iberdrola, who does not want much publicity around Lemoniz since it has a high political meaning. Further surfing reveals that Iberdrola has worked and works on HPC-Energy projects.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Future To Design a Strategy (Part II)

It is clear that meteorology is one of the key users of HPC. It is one of the most its important disciplines, and not for the amount of industrial benefit we can get from it, but as it is something crucial for our life affecting everyone and every organization.

As a region, the Basque created its own meteorological agency in order to provide specific information to the Basque area. Euskalmet, the name of the agency, has deployed a large meteorological sensor network.

It is very difficult to guess the compute systems they use to process the data as it is not advertised: Euskalmet has concentrated efforts on installing meteorological instruments to get data. And it is known that they are clients of the products that ECMWF elaborates -as almost every country in the EU.

They probably make use of not a big number of machines without many computer nodes replicated -in case of error- and everything hosted and mainly managed by EJIE that is the Basque Goverment Computing Services Agency and other Government Departments. Otherwise they would have appeared on telly. But they have not.

Two key factors will have to be faced in future: due to the fact that the agency is young -5 years this month- they already proclaimed that want to move towards their own research. This will suppose a major investment not only in personnel if they do not have it, but in Hardware. Research needs tons of time to verify models. Furthermore they will need an scalable backup system since data mining works will be invaluable not only for them but for the also recently created Basque Center For Climate Change.

On the other hand, the department will have to delegate the system administration tasks completely to EJIE or its equivalent. It is also unknown if EJIE has experienced in managing intensive calculation machines. Will it be cheaper and better to create a Computing Agency?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Learning from Others (Part I)

Having the most powerful supercomputer of the world means nothing if one does not have strong partners -and specially industrial ones- to justify the bill as part of the production chain of critical industrial solutions beyond the pure scientific-classical approach.

This is the case of a top-class German center: "Center for Computer Applications in AeroSpace Science and Engineering" also known as C²A²S²E. The center has developed a strong collaboration not only with universities and scientist, but with the world-class aircraft constructor Airbus. Airbus is known for having contracts with other leading computing centers, what makes one think that the demand of computing power is critical in their future plans.

The Basque Region is one of the leading spanish regions in aerospace. ITP, Sener, CTAero are companies that were born here. It is remarkable interesting the case of Aernnova previously known as Gamesa, that has signed an important contract to supply parts for next Airbus models. With an awesome amount of work and money arranged for the next years, Aernnova or any of their partners could undoubtfully start a new kind of business with Aircraft constructors: It is always good to diversify. The local government could also knock on their door and build something greener for the Basque community. It is obvious that highest security constraints must be met and therefore the best analysts must be hired. A good model it is there, let's learn from it, looking at ourselves and the future we want to build.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Future To Desing a Strategy (Part 1)

The city of Bilbao, in the Basque Region, is the Spanish Candidate for the European Spallation Source Project;

Similar projects in the World ranging from CERN to smaller size ones like the UK based ISIS Spallation Source, need the use of advanced computing facilities to process data after experimental results are completed.

If Bilbao wins, the Spanish Government and the Regional Basque Government will have to decide if the already existing National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona will support their necessities creating a local small department to support the users at the ESS-Bilbao. Other scenarios would be the ESS-Bilbao hosting their own machines close to the Spallation Source, or even the creation of a basque agency to support this and many other industrial/research authorities in the area -mostly related to the vast industrial application of the ESS; this last case could once more help to unify expenses, enhance the human workforce on HPC at the Basque region, and last but not least facilitate the coding activities to the users as it is expected that the next machine hosted in Barcelona will make use of the very difficult to program CELL architecture unless an easy work around is found before.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Past To Understand The Present (Part I)

Sometimes it is good to have a look back, see those old projects that failed and make the following question: are they useful now?

This is the case of the Basque Supercomputing Center. Created as a laboratory of Labein and located at the Zamudio Technology Park during the first 90s hosted a CONVEX C-220 like this:

Some people say that the machine -fully financed with public money from the Basque Region Government- was misused. The government offered the utility to the University of the Basque Country, a public institution which could not afford the electricity bill. The machine was turned off and the department dissolved. The money was invested in more profitable research and industrial activities making use of cheaper and more affordable machines. It is a must to remember that the Basque and Spain were hit by an important crisis then, and that every bit of money to invest was crucial -as it is coming nowadays at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center were it is uncertain that the Spanish Government will be able to invest 12m€ witin next two years.

But if we have a look at the European HPC landscape or even the international we can find good reasons to recreate this laboratory at the Basque Country and join the separate efforts that I2Basque, the Universities and other research institutions are making in the Basque region. We do not need oversized compute power but we can find a resonable solution to pay the electricity bill.