PRACE 2.0 on Its Way

Michaela Barth, PDC

New times may be in store for scientists and researchers from academia and industry who regularly set out to address society's grand challenges by carrying out excellent quality experiments and simulations; PRACE – the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe – is entering its second phase, still following a clear mission to facilitate high-impact scientific discovery, as well as engineering research and development, across all disciplines for the benefit of society and to enhance European competitiveness. PRACE seeks to realize this mission by offering world-class computing resources and services through a series of calls with time allocations being awarded via a peer review process. After a successful first phase of PRACE, which ran from 2010-2016 and offered over ten billion core hours in 13 calls, the second phase of PRACE, PRACE 2.0, will officially start in 2017 together with PRACE-5IP. In actual fact the 14th call is part of PRACE 2.0, even though it was closed in November 2016, as it is offering over two billion core hours to be used from April 2017 onwards. PRACE 2.0 will run for three years until 2020 offering a total of six calls. 

PRACE has been established as an international non-profit association based in Brussels and currently has 25 members and two observers. However, the number of full members may change with the new funding model that will be put into place by the start of PRACE 2.0.

In Sweden the Swedish Research Council (VR) is the official PRACE member with the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC) being its representative. Because of planned structural changes within SNIC (which include a new funding cycle starting in 2018), at the moment Sweden can only commit to join PRACE 2.0 in 2017; the formal decisions for the following years need to wait until the new model for SNIC is in place. While this leaves some uncertainty in the meantime, we hope that this will not impinge on Swedish PRACE users and their access to PRACE resources.

The PRACE regular project access call 14 has already been opened under the new PRACE 2.0 framework and closed on the 21st of November 2016, with time allocations for standard single-year access starting on the 1st of April 2017 for a period of 12 months. Multi-year projects based on a 24- or 36-month schedule are also possible. Additionally, the call reserves 0.5% of the total resources available for Centres of Excellence (CoE) as selected by the European Commission (EC) under the E-INFRA-5-2015 call for proposals. The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) will be the new fifth PRACE hosting partner in PRACE 2.0 and they are making their system PizDaint available. The other hosting countries are, as usual, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Altogether the five PRACE hosting partners are offering seven systems with more than 2000 million compute core hours, and a cumulative peak performance of 50 petaflops was offered in this call, which is three times more than in previous calls. Final decisions on the proposals will be made by the PRACE allocation committee in mid-March 2017. For further information about the Tier-0 calls, see www.prace-ri.eu/prace-project-access .

While the 14th Tier-0 call was open, the latest PRACE Tier-1 call (which interestingly was also the 14th call in its series) was also open for researchers affiliated with a Swedish institution and the deadline was synced with the Tier-0 call. The PRACE Tier-1 calls are traditionally known as DECI calls – meaning Distributed European Computing Initiative – and they now constitute an optional programme within PRACE that was adopted from DEISA in 2011. For DECI-14 Sweden is again providing 5% of PDC’s local flagship system, Beskow, which is still the largest academic supercomputing resource in the Nordic countries. Traditionally, we in Sweden do well in DECI applications.

The DECI-14 call features some changes compared to previous DECI calls.

  • Up to 30% of the computing time has been reserved for projects from countries that are not providing resources to the call.
  • Individual projects have been limited to a maximum of 5 million core hours. (The average award per project is expected to be around 2.4 million core hours; the maximum limit was set partly to give a better idea of realistic project sizes and to mark the difference between Tier-1 and Tier-0 projects.)

As was the case with the previous DECI-13 call, for DECI-14 researchers could apply to participate in the popular joint pilot programme with EUDAT. In DECI-13 half of the applications expressed interest in taking part in the joint EUDAT pilot activities and, out of those, five projects were selected. This time the EUDAT storage offerings were again set to about 150 TB per project and up to 1 PB of total storage capacity in the hope that there would be more suitable projects that could be selected for the joint EUDAT pilots. For more information about the joint pilot activity, see 

The new Type D preparatory access project type, referred to as "Tier-1 for Tier-0" (which was presented in the last issue of the PDC newsletter), has unfortunately been delayed due to some of the uncertainties with PRACE 2.0, but has finally come to light for real in the latest December cut-off. Eight Tier-1 centres have agreed to participate, with most of them being able to host one or two projects with a typical size of 150 000 core hours. Keep watching www.prace-ri.eu/prace-preparatory-access  to find out more!

The current implementation phase of PRACE (PRACE-4IP) will come to an end on the 30th of April 2017. The next implementation phase PRACE-5IP has had its EC funding confirmed and will officially start in January 2017, although in practical terms it will begin on the 1st of May 2017, and then run until the 30th of April 2019. The suggested distribution of person months (PMs) for Sweden’s contributions to PRACE-5IP in the proposal submitted to the EC was as follows: 19 PMs for the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 6.5 PMs for Umeå University and 8.5 PMs for Linköping University, giving a total of 34 PMs.

New PRACE Training Centres will be established in PRACE-5IP. A fair and transparent selection process and an open call for becoming a PRACE Training Centre will be prepared. The plan is to open this call just after the PRACE-5IP project starts. 

If you would like to understand more about PRACE and what it could help you to achieve with your research, please contact Michaela Barth  straight away!