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Boosting EU’s research and innovation potential with a cutting-edge computing ecosystem

Several scientific projects, ranging from seismology to cryptography, are bearing fruit through access to world-class high-performance computing (HPC) systems in Europe.

© Timofeev Vladimir, Shutterstock

HPC, typically used for solving advanced problems through modelling, simulation and analysis, is crucial for the advancement of scientific and engineering research. Thanks to the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE), a permanent pan-European research infrastructure (RI) for HPC, scientists and researchers from academia and industry have access to supercomputers across Europe. They are using such systems for high-impact scientific discovery and engineering research and development. With the implementation phases of PRACE RI since 2010 that involve the EU-funded deployment of PRACE HPC services, scientists and researchers have been provided with over 21 billion core hours of compute time. They have managed to achieve breakthrough results through large-scale simulations of natural phenomena and technical systems and analyses of large data sets in various disciplines. One of these researchers, Dr Alice-Agnes Gabriel from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Geophysics at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München won the 2020 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions to and impact on HPC in Europe. The award is in memory of the English mathematician and writer Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer. Quoted in a document on the project website, Núria López, Chair of the PRACE Scientific Steering Committee, says: “Dr. Alice-Agnes Gabriel uses numerical simulations coupled to experimental observations to increase our understanding of the underlying physics of earthquakes. The work includes wide scales and can improve our knowledge and safety against these natural phenomena.” Dr Gabriel also contributed to the EU-funded ExaHyPE (An Exascale Hyperbolic PDE Engine) project that ended in September 2019. In addition, she’s involved with the ongoing ChEESE (Centre of Excellence for Exascale in Solid Earth) project.

Cryptography milestone

Among various scientific projects supported by PRACE, a project that received 32 million core hours on the German JUWELS supercomputer reached an HPC milestone in cryptography, as explained in a press release. Called New Records for Integer Factorization and Discrete Logarithm, the project achieved two records in RSA factorisation. RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) refers to a public key encryption technology that is widely used for secure data transmission. According to the same press release, “a team of European scientists led by Paul Zimmermann of INRIA, France, announced that they computed the largest-ever RSA key size (RSA-240), alongside the largest-ever integer discrete logarithm (795 bits).” It adds: “The achievement is extra remarkable, because the feat goes beyond Moore’s law: based on the current improvements in hardware, we would have had to wait a few more years for this result. Improvements in the software that carries out the Number Field Sieving, and algorithms allowed for the two records to be broken at the same time, and for Moore’s law to be bypassed.” PRACE is in its sixth implementation phase under PRACE-6IP (PRACE 6th Implementation Phase Project). PRACE-6IP’s objective is to continue and extend the scope of PRACE with new and collaborative activities proposed by the consortium. It provides tailored training and skills development programmes, and also prepares strategies and best practices towards exascale computing with novel software solutions. PRACE has 26 members, representing EU Member States and Associated Countries. For more information, please see: PRACE-6IP project website