Six systems, with complementary architectures and a global peak power of 15 petaflop/s… This is what the European research infrastructure PRACE [1] (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) makes available to European academic researchers and industrials. .

Since 2010, PRACE has achieved its roadmap: put Europe back in the worldwide HPC race. And this result have been obtained thanks to the commitment of four of ots country members (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) which have, each, invested 100 million euros over five years (2010-2015) for the deployment of very powerful supercomputers in order to support both the progress of knowledge and innovation in Europe.

PRACE has been officially created on spring 2010 as an “association internationale sans but lucrative” (AISBL) under the Belgian law. On 1 March 2013, 25 country members are involved in PRACE: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France (represented by GENCI), Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

The resources and services provided by PRACE are the source of many scientific advances and including two that received the 2014 prizes awarded by the readers of HPCwire: The "Best Use of HPC in Automotive" prize for the French company Renault (optimisation of the parameters used for crash-tests) and the "Top Supercomputing Achievement" prize for a German team from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (simulation of the entire known Universe from its birth to the present day, including the web of spiral and disc galaxies).

More information: [1]

France in leading position

The French contribution to PRACE takes the form of the making available by GENCI of the Curie machine at TGCC (CEA’s Très Grand Centre de Calcul) in Bruyères-le-Châtel. With a generalist and balanced architecture and a total capacity of 2 Pflop/s, Curie is the most sought-after supercomputer among the PRACE project calls.

France has been making good use of the PRACE computing resources, with 20% by number of projects and allocated resources. It is also the leading country by number of industrial users (large groups and SMEs) accessing the PRACE resources since April 2012.

Some key figures

Since April 2010, following 12 project calls, PRACE has offered more than 11 billion hours to 435 European projects.

PRACE project calls: [2]
Awarded projects: [3]

Access to the PRACE resources

The computing resources of PRACE are available to academic and industrial researchers (the latter since April 2012) for open research work, by means of biannual project calls. The applications are evaluated by an independent international scientific panel, on the basis of a single criterion: scientific excellence.

Support of European SMEs

PRACE has launched in 2013 the SHAPE programme (SME HPC Adoption Programme in Europe) using the model of France’s HPC-SME Initiative. Like HPC-SME in France, the objective of SHAPE is to facilitate the take-up of high performance computing by innovative SMEs in Europe.

Following the initial pilot call launched at the end of 2013 through which ten SMEs, including two from France, were offered support, SHAPE is now one of PRACE’s permanent services.

2 French SMEs are among the winners of the 3rd call. The 4th call is under way.

The SHAPE programme is the winner of the HPCwire 2014 "Best HPC Collaboration between Government and Industry".

Pre commercial procurement

With four other European partners and PRACE, GENCI is a participant in a Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP), with a call issued at the end of 2013 and with the aim of defining innovative technological solutions in terms of energy efficiency, a key challenge for the next generation of supercomputers.

PCP is a new European Commission tool for the tendering, in phases, of R&D activities with the aim of implementing a shared funding, with preselected companies, of innovative solutions.

PRACE services

All PRACE users can access the training services made available by PRACE, namely in the six PRACE Advanced Training Centres (PATC), one of which is in France, co-ordinated by the Maison de la Simulation in partnership with the three national computing centres and Inria.

Next steps

Begun in May 2012, a work on the strategic review going beyond 2015 continues today with the stated aim of ensuring the future continuation of PRACE and helping to set high performance computing as a critical element within the scientific, economic and social policies of Europe.