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A New Crown Jewel

These are the days when what is currently the fastest German supercomputer will go into operation in Jülich. JUWELS is a real innovation from Europe. It is one of a new generation of highly flexible modular supercomputers that Jülich experts and their partners are developing specifically for scientists.

Supercomputers grow with their scientific tasks, and the tasks grow with the supercomputers. In the past, powerful mainframe computers were mainly used for computationally intensive simulations, but today, other strengths and capabilities are also required, such as the evaluation of large amounts of data or methods of artificial intelligence. The “Jülich Wizard for European Leadership Science” – JUWELS for short – is therefore designed as a modular supercomputer.

Modular architecture

The modular concept implemented at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), which was developed in a long-term cooperation with the German software company ParTec, provides for a supercomputer consisting of several specialised modules that can be dynamically combined as required using uniform software. With the JURECA supercomputer, the JSC had already been operating its first supercomputer consisting of several modules since last year. JUWELS is another, even more powerful modular system that will now replace the Jülich supercomputer JUQUEEN, which was once the fastest supercomputer in Europe.

Moderne ParallelrechnerModern parallel computers consist of a large number of networked individual computers. They are also referred to as compute nodes. They contain the processors (CPUs), the associated memory modules and additional components such as memory expansions or accelerator cards with graphics processors or special accelerator processors. In a modular supercomputer, these additional components are no longer connected to the standard compute node via expansion cards. Instead, they are combined into independent, specialised modules that can be dynamically assigned to the standard calculation node as required. In this way, an application can be optimally allocated precisely the resources that are efficient for a given program part and which the application actually needs, notably without – as was the case before – leaving components unused or blocking them.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

Universally usable cluster module

Several modules are intended for JUWELS. The first, the so-called cluster module, has now been delivered by the European company Atos together with the ParTec software specialists. The theoretical peak performance of this module alone is up to 12 trillion computing operations per second, or petaflops for short, which is equivalent to the computing power of approximately 60,000 modern PCs.

The cluster module achieved a computing speed of 6.2 petaflops during initial test runs for the TOP500 list of the fastest computers in the world – although it is not even designed for speed, but for flexibility and universality. This makes the system currently the fastest German computer on the current TOP500 list, on which it ranks 23rd overall.

Booster module for extreme computing power

Aufbau des ersten Moduls von JUWELSConstruction of JUWELS’ first module in spring 2018. Clearly visible are the hoses for hot water cooling (right). It allows the majority of the waste heat to be cooled directly with the outside air without additional cooling generators. This saves a lot of energy.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / T. Schlößer

A booster expansion is planned for 2019, which will multiply the computing power once again. This booster module will be designed for massively parallel applications that can be easily processed with a large number of extremely energy-efficient processing cores, such as those that can be realised with graphic cards, for example. The whole thing works much like a turbocharger. “Complex parts of the code that are difficult to compute simultaneously on a large number of processors are executed on the cluster. Simpler program parts that can be processed with greater efficiency parallel to that – those that scale better – are outsourced to the booster module,” explains Dr. Dorian Krause, head of the JUWELS division responsible for construction and operation at the JSC.

Manifold applications

The new computer is already in high demand among European researchers. 87 projects have already been assigned. It is fully booked for the next few months. The system can be used for simulations in brain research such as in the Human Brain Project, the scientific research director for that being Prof. Katrin Amunts from Jülich, as well as for the development of new drugs and the design of future materials. In addition, scientists in earth system research use the system for the development of high-resolution climate models of the next generation. Many other applications come from engineering, life sciences, security research, astronomy, physics or chemistry.

Computergestützte Analyse der Nervenfaserbahnen (mittels „Polarized Light Imaging“) im Human Brain Project.Computer-assisted analysis of nerve fibre pathways (using “Polarized Light Imaging”) in the Human Brain Project.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Markus Axer

Innovative concept comes from Europe

Dr. Estela Suarez vom JSCDr. Estela Suarez of the JSC
Copyright:  Forschungszentrum Jülich / Sascha Kreklau

JUWELS’ adaptable modular design is the result of EU-funded DEEP projects in which JSC experts have been working together with almost 30 European partners since 2011. “The basic idea of the modular concept is similar to constructing a house. Instead of exclusively employing expensive, highly specialised skilled workers, the experts are only assigned the complicated, crucial work such as the electrical installation. Simpler operations are carried out by less expensive workers,” explains project manager Dr. Estela Suarez from the JSC.

By the end of next year, the experts in the current DEEP-EST project plan to build various prototypes for further modular architectures, including a data analytics module. With a high memory capacity and various accelerator processors, such as so-called FPGAs, this module will be specially tailored to the requirements of Big Data and high-performance data analytics (HPDA).

Tests will show how this extended modular concept performs in practice. Together with researchers from KU Leuven, the experts simulate the effects of solar storms on Earth on the prototype system. Such events are rare. However, one thing is certain: there is a risk of enormous damage if such a particle stream reaches the earth, such as the failure of satellite communication and disturbed GPS, Internet and telephone connections, or large-scale power failures.

Die Erfassung und Simulation des Ereignisses ist hochkomplexCapturing and simulating the event is highly complex: the analysis of solar activity is outsourced to the prototype of the data analysis module, while the spreading of the particle stream is calculated on the cluster. The interaction with the earth’s magnetic field is simulated simultaneously on the cluster and the booster.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Fotolia


Model for exascale computer

With the installation of the modular supercomputers JURECA and JUWELS and the DEEP research projects, JSC experts take the development of the next generation of supercomputers into their own hands, working together with various partners and manufacturers. The overarching goal is the development of a new, future-oriented, modular architecture, which is to make it possible to run different program parts of complex simulations and analyses on the module that is best suited for them.

“Modular supercomputing is the key to a promising, affordable and energy-efficient supercomputer technology with which the coming exascale systems in particular can be realised,” according to Lippert.
The construction of an exascale computer is across the globe regarded as the next big step in the field of high performance computing (HPC). With one trillion (10^18) operations per second, such a computer is at least one order more powerful than today’s fastest supercomputers.

As part of the EuroHPC initiative, Europe also aims at developing such a system, which is largely based on European technology. Among other things, the immense computing power of future supercomputers should create new possibilities for predicting natural disasters and climate change or for new medical therapies and for integrating renewable energies.

Supercomputer JUWELS in der Rechnerhalle des JSC Supercomputer JUWELS in the JSC computer hall.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / R.-U. Limbach


Tobias Schlößer