Supercomputer for hire
In September 2018 scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich put the JUWELS into operation, at the time the fastest supercomputer in Germany (at peak performance its power is equivalent to 60,000 regular computers). JUWELS is the result of a Franco-German cooperation between researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich, Munich-based software company ParTex and French IT specialist Atos. It is mainly used by scientists to analyze large data volumes, for example, in climate research and neuroscience. Nevertheless, companies (including foreign companies located in the E.U.) can apply to use the supercomputer as well. Bosch, Siemens and Zeiss, for instance, have already shown interest in using JUWELS for research.
All those who apply for computing time have to submit to a peer review process and explain what they want to research and why it can only be done with the help of a supercomputer. The scientific community decides who qualifies and allocates the computing time. Calarco suggests that companies should partner with a research facility in order to be approved for JUWELS: “We definitely try to make it possible, especially for SMEs, but most of the computing time has to go to research.”
In the meantime, scientists at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Munich have developed a supercomputer that is even faster than JUWELS. The so-called SuperMUC-NG, which will be operational in the spring, has a computing power of 26.9 petaflops (a unit of computing speed equivalent to a quadrillion floating point operations per second or “FLOPS”). That makes it the eighth fastest computer in the world. Like JUWELS, it is government-financed, and it has cost EUR 96 million to date. “The development of a highly complex system like SuperMUC-NG requires close cooperation between manufacturers and operators such as the LRZ,” says its director Professor Dieter Kranzlmüller. “The supercomputer can be used in all areas of science, as well as by companies, if done in the context of a scientific cooperation.” Kranzmüller and his team are currently looking into whether the LRZ is a suitable location for more in-depth quantum computing research. Meanwhile, the researchers at Forschungszentrum Jülich are working on ramping up JUWELS’s quantum system to create an even faster supercomputer that will raise the bar even higher.