ISSUE 10 : JANUARY 2011 : WWW.ICHEC.IE
EU PRACE programme rolls out
Curie Phase 1: petascale machine funded by Genci (Grand Equipement National de Calcul Intensif) and operated by CEA/DIF as a Tier-0 system for PRACE. (Copyright CEA.)
TGCC (‘Très grand centre de calcul du CEA’) infrastructure, designed to host Tier-0 supercomputers. (Copyright CEA.)
The long-awaited Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) is now rolling out, with calls for access to Tier-0 Petaflop compute facilities. While this is of great interest to a small number of Irish researchers who need these state-ofthe-art resources from the world’s fastest computers, greater numbers of Irish researchers need access to more modest facilities. It is in this regard that ICHEC, along with some of the smaller EU countries, has been campaigning within the consortium for access to Tier-1 resources (50-250TFlops), generally available
through the pooling of agreed percentages of national facilities around the member countries. This argument won particular favour with the EU Commission and, importantly, has now been mainstreamed within the PRACE project. We expect these important Tier-1 resources to come on stream later in 2011. ICHEC staff will be pro-active in this space, working with Irish researchers who need these facilities. A full account of the PRACE project is given on page 3 of this edition of ICHEC News.
Newsflash – ICHEC wins FP7 funding ICHEC is very pleased to announce its involvement in seven EC FP7 grants/proposals. These projects cover areas such as: the establishment of a pan-European HPC infrastructure (PRACE 1st and 2nd Implementation Phases, 2010-13); the development of e-infrastructures targeted at nanomedicine and the life sciences; partnering with leading industrial organisations in three projects to develop software products for
heterogeneous (GPGPU) computing, and more specifically assessing their suitability for a range of popular community codes of benefit to the research community; and, finally, ICHEC is involved in a comprehensive study assessing the cost–benefit of cloud computing as an alternative to conventional HPC services. The total funding for these seven projects amounts to ¤3.5m (¤1.96 already secured; ¤1.52m under consideration).
New recruits at ICHEC
Special feature: shared services
A packed edition
ICHEC welcomes new recruits
Welcome to issue 10 of ICHEC News, the newsletter dedicated to bringing researchers and institutions up to date with the latest high-performance computing (HPC) news from Ireland. There is much to report on in this issue, including information on new recruits to the ICHEC team. We also take a look at the successful growth of our technology transfer programme, which is helping Irish companies to find technology solutions. Our special feature highlights the ‘condominium’ shared services concept for HPC, explaining why it is such a compelling initiative in the current economic climate. We also report on the upcoming PRACE Spring School in the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, and highlight events that took place in 2010. We hope you find ICHEC News to be a valuable source of HPC news and information.
Andy Regan joined ICHEC in June 2010 as a system programmer. His responsibilities include administration of ICHEC’s HPC and non-HPC infrastructure. Previously, he worked for letshost.ie as a system administrator and end-user support provider. Andy graduated from NUI Galway with a Bsc in Information Technology. He also worked as a research intern at DERI, Galway, in the Semantic Web Services cluster. Martin Peters joined ICHEC in November 2010. Martin studied computational chemistry at Trinity College Dublin, and worked with Prof. Kennie Merz at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Florida, receiving his PhD in 2007. He returned to TCD to work with the Molecular Design Group. At ICHEC, Martin works closely with scientists in academia, supporting researchers in the computational chemistry field. Filippo Spiga joined ICHEC in January 2011 as a computational scientist. He studied for his computer science degree at the University of MilanoBicocca and completed his MSc thesis at EPCC. He collaborated with CINECA and made a contribution to the PRACE project, and also spent one year in Milan at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics. Filippo was part of an R&D group at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. Renato Miceli joined the ICHEC team in January 2011 as a junior computational scientist. Renato obtained his BSc in Computer Science at the Federal University of Campina
Grande (UFCG), Brazil. He worked in the Distributed Systems Laboratory as a developer for the OurGrid middleware project. Renato was also a visiting research student at ICHEC for the summer internship programme. BeiBei Ma joined us in August 2010 as a software developer in the technology transfer group. She is primarily involved with providing solutions and consultancy to Irish SMEs. BeiBei studied at the Dalian University of Technology, receiving a BEng in electronic engineering. Her PhD was completed at the National University of Ireland Maynooth in 2009. Tanya Abbas joined ICHEC in November 2010 as an administrative assistant. Tanya has a BA in broadcast management from the University of Texas at Arlington. She completed an internship with CBS 11 in Dallas/Fort Worth, and worked as a journalist for the Sunday World newspaper in Dublin. Tanya is from Fort Worth, Texas, and moved to Ireland in April 2010.
Special feature Shared services condominiums
Research update Understanding the origins of eukaryotic genes and genomes
Education and training Events calendar PRACE Spring School – Edinburgh 2011 Introduction to CUDA
5 A year in review Irish group awarded US compute time
Eight new staff members have joined the team at ICHEC.
Professor Jim Slevin Director
Nicola McDonnell joined ICHEC as a computational scientist in October 2010, and works on our PRACE and technology transfer activities. Prior to joining ICHEC she studied natural sciences at TCD, and completed an MSc in computer science at Queen’s University Belfast. She has a postgraduate diploma in computer games development from Abertay University, Dundee. Nicola joins us from the EPCC, where she was a principal consultant in the Applications Group. Nicola Varini (not pictured) joined ICHEC in November 2010 as a computational scientist. He studied for his Masters degree in computational physics at Udine University in Italy, and is currently a PhD student there. He was involved in European projects such as PRACE and MMM@HPC, and in developing and implementing new potentials in LAMMPS and some computational aspects of Quantum Espresso and OpenFOAM.
New recruits to ICHEC: Back row (from left): Andy Regan; Martin Peters; and, Filippo Spiga. Front row (from left): Renato Miceli; BeiBei Flynn (née Ma); Tanya Abbas; and, Nicola McDonnell.
New recruits at ICHEC
New and notable 3 International collaboration: PRACE Watch this space …
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Technology transfer ICHEC provides technology solutions for Irish companies
New and notable
European infrastructure development brings new opportunities DRS J-C DESPLAT and MICHAEL BROWNE present an update on ICHEC’s continuing involvement in the PRACE project. Regular readers of ICHEC News will be familiar with ICHEC’s active involvement in the development of the European Tier-0 high-end computing (HEC) infrastructure, which typically includes the ‘top 10’ most powerful supercomputers in the world. This effort is led predominantly under the auspices of the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE), and financially supported by a number of European governments, national funding agencies, and the European Commission (see ICHEC News, Issue 8). Progress to date has been rapid, sustained and significant, placing HEC well ahead of most other types of large-scale infrastructures. For instance, the second PRACE supercomputer, a 1.6PFlops Intel Xeon system from BULL, funded by GENCI in France, is now open for access to European researchers. The benefits of this evolution will be far reaching for the Irish computational science community, for Ireland, and for ICHEC. Through their partnership with ICHEC, Irish researchers enjoyed a 100% success rate at the technical evaluation stage (the European average is only 52%). A
very interesting evolution for Irish researchers is the broadening of PRACE’s mandate to incorporate socalled Tier-1 systems (typically 1/10 of the size of the top 10 systems, so currently c.100 TFlops peak) within its infrastructure, and the role that Ireland (through ICHEC) will play in the establishment of this new service. In the national context, this evolution will extend the relevance of PRACE from a dozen or so researchers, to up to 100. The Tier-1 service will provide further resources to groups seeking access to systems more powerful than Stokes, and will provide others with an important stepping stone to the Tier-0 systems (a much needed mechanism considering the recent closure of the Irish Capability Computing Service). Importantly, this access will be gained through an international competitive process, based on the scientific merit and technical readiness of the proposed research, rather than on ‘juste retour’. Based on the recent Irish successes securing resources through the DEISA Extreme Computing Initiative (see ICHEC News Issue 9), we are
Gilles Civario (right) and Dr Florian Berberich (Jülich Supercomputing Centre, Germany) at the PRACE booth during SC10 in New Orleans. confident that Irish researchers will fully avail of this opportunity to increase their competitiveness. Work on the first implementation phase is now well underway, with ICHEC involved in four work packages. Our effort is predominantly targeted at porting and optimising key community codes such as Quantum ESPRESSO, OpenFOAM, or Elmer for Tier-1/0 use. In the second implementation phase (expected to start Q3-2011), ICHEC’s role will be broadened to include responsibility for the co-ordination of PRACE training activities, and co-leadership (with CSC
in Finland) of the ‘pillar’ on training and dissemination. Not surprisingly, ICHEC’s leading expertise in GPGPU computing will be exploited in both phases. These significant changes, especially the Tier-1 area, which was previously served by the DEISA DECI programme, are bringing new opportunities for access to hardware resources and expertise, and ICHEC continues to be happy to help the community to capitalise on this. For further information, contact ICHEC at firstname.lastname@example.org and see http://www.prace-project.eu/.
Watch this space … Ireland leads data management node for European climate change initiative. ICHEC, e-INIS and the IPCC ICHEC is a partner in the EC-Earth climate model, along with UCD, Met Éireann and a host of other European meteorological services. As its commitment to the project, ICHEC is in charge of the project’s data management, and is preparing and managing all EC-Earth data for the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. A key part of the next IPCC report, dubbed ‘AR5’, is a comparison of the results of all the different climate model outputs. In essence, we want to know how the climate models differ in their predictions and why. Comparing the models is
the goal of CMIP5, the Climate Model Intercomparison Project. For this, each of the major climate models teams (around 10-15 worldwide) run, as well as their own science, a set of comparison data using the same scenarios and output the same variables. These outputs are compared, and the results summarised as part of the AR5 report, scheduled for 2013. Clearly the above involves the processing of huge data files and tools. EC-Earth plans to make between 100 and 200TB of data public (current plans are for 130TB, with more possible depending on funding). But for these data to be
meaningful and facilitate comparison, all the output from the different models must be in the same format: not just the same file format, but the meaning of each variable needs to be clarified and understood. It is in this standardisation process that ICHEC has been centrally involved, writing tools to reformat the model output in an agreed standard format, and developing standards for data management. Once the data is ready, a core 50TB will be stored at three Tier 0 institutes where the actual intercomparisons will be processed. In addition to this core, a further
100TB of the data will be kept on e-INIS storage, with ICHEC running a metadata server. Using these, climate researchers will be able to find all the results from EC-Earth. The intention is to make all the data available to the general public so that they can see the effects of climate change themselves in programs like Google Earth. ICHEC and e-INIS are one of only 10 or so Tier 1 centres managing data for the IPCC report. This work helps to place Ireland to the forefront in climate science, and ensures that we get the highest profile and best value for the science done.
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Shared services for high-performance computing: introducing the ‘condominium’ model DR J-C DESPLAT and PROFESSOR JAMES SLEVIN discuss condominium clusters introduced by ICHEC to provide ownership, value for money and optimum use of resources for the higher education institutes. Concept There has hardly ever been a period in the development of IT services in the modern era where data-intensive and processor-intensive (i.e., highperformance computing [HPC]) computing are serviced from a technology landscape that changes so rapidly. New and emerging architectures based on GPGPUs, as well as the proliferation of services from cloud computing providers, make planning for the future of HPC more challenging than it has ever been (see ICHEC News issue 9), and all of this without even considering the storing and management of data files growing at near-exponential rates. How should we address these challenging and exciting developments at a national level to ensure that we keep up with and benefit from these developing trends in a declining budgetary environment? We believe that the development of specially adapted ‘condominiums’ – managed by ICHEC centrally in a co-located data centre – for all of the institutions that need high-end computer cycles, should form an important part of the strategy in the currently challenging economic environment. It is not suggested that these ‘condos’ should replace local compute resources, but rather that they should be seen as complementary to them. Institutions may decide in the future that they represent cost-effective alternatives to procuring, buying and managing their own HPC resources for small systems of the order of 100+ cores, and where it remains essential for access to these facilities to remain under local control. So what are ‘condominium clusters’, so-called by a number of US institutions now rolling out the model in order to ensure value for money and optimum use of resources increasingly constrained by tightening budgets?
Condominium clusters Condominium clusters are clusters composed of compute resources owned by different institutions and administered and hosted centrally, by ICHEC in this instance, with the provision that spare cycles are made available across condominium boundaries. Seven condominiums are currently in operation and managed by ICHEC for these institutions (see Table). Two of these condos, owned by UCD and NUI Maynooth, have operated very successfully since Stokes was commissioned in late 2008; the remaining five were put in place following the recent Stokes technology refresh.
n ICHEC systems administrators manage the total system, where the institutional condos are seamless components. If/when problems occur with the hardware on the site (i.e., presently at the UCD data centre), ICHEC staff access the data centre to fix the problem and thus ensure minimum disruption. ICHEC’s complete administration service is provided free to the condo owner. n In the refreshed Stokes compute cluster, ICHEC provided a limited number of ¤50k (capital) shares (see Table), each amounting to c.96 cores with eight nodes. Institutional condo shares can be operated as a fixed boundary cluster (i.e., a partition) or, alternatively, can provide access to users via an allocation model. Jobs in the partition model are limited to the size of the condo and the availability of sufficient cores to run a specific job. Jobs in the allocation model (currently used by all institutions but one) are scheduled so that the average usage by the institution corresponds approximately to the size of the institution’s condo. n Apart from the initial capital cost of the condo + storage, the only additional costs for the institution are the monthly electricity costs, which are charged pro rata to the size of the condo. Institution
DCU DIAS NUIG NUIM UCD UL Met Éireann
1 1.5 0.5 2 3.25 0.5 1.5
96 144 48 192 312 48 144
29 12 8 29 91 7 N/A
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3% 1% 1% 4% 4%
The way the condo model works is straightforward: n A particular institution/research group makes a contribution towards the purchase of a large cluster, ‘buying’ a share of the total system at a cost pro rata to the size of the share it wishes to ‘own’, e.g., if ICHEC purchases a 4,000-core cluster, and a 150-core condo was being bought, then the once-off capital cost would be 150/4,000 of the total capital purchasing price.
UCD NUIM DCU NUIG UL
DIAS MetEireann National Service
Education and training
Recent events October 26-28, 2010: Introduction to Modern Fortran at NUI Galway November 24, 2010: Bio HPC Clinic at University College Dublin December 6-7, 2010: Introduction to CUDA at University College Dublin March 29-31, 2011: PRACE Spring School 2011, Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, Edinburgh, UK.
DEISA/PRACE Spring School – Edinburgh 2011
Benefits n No procurement overheads for the institution. ICHEC guarantees that the institution obtains its own institutional cluster, managed by highly experienced ICHEC staff. They also know that ICHEC’s deal with the vendor will almost certainly provide them with a cluster at a significantly lower cost in terms of core per Euro compared to buying directly as a stand-alone system. n Strong savings on the capital side are also made on storage (only a fraction of a ‘drawer’ is purchased, not the full infrastructure), as well as on the infrastructure front, which has already been purchased (management nodes, login nodes, interconnect, software licenses, etc.). n No hosting costs and no systems administration costs. n High availability of system, e.g., Stokes has a record of over 99% availability since January 1, 2009, when it was commissioned. n Availability of up-to-date tuned tools, libraries and application software. n Full utilisation of their cluster, where institutions use the allocation model rather than the partition model for access.
n Seamless transition from condo to ICHEC’s national service where needed. In effect, the condo model encourages new users to use ‘local resources’ as a stepping-stone to the full national service via Class B or C applications. Note that UCD now has 89 users on its 312-core condo, building to this number from about 20 when the service began in early 2009. More than half of these are not users of the national service (as yet, it should be emphasised!), but are in local, try-out mode. In summary, therefore, we believe that the condominium shared services concept is a very attractive one for institutions, and with its impressive saving of costs, management and administrative overheads, it is a particularly compelling one in the present economic climate. Supplementary material on the share model can be found at http://www.ichec.ie/services/alternat e_access.
Dr J-C Desplat Associate Director of ICHEC
As part of ICHEC’s involvement in the PRACE project, we are working with the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) to organise the joint DEISA/PRACE Spring School 2011, from March 29-31 in Edinburgh. The School will cover new languages, programming paradigms and tools for extreme scalability. The programme consists of two parallel tracks with topics including: Using the Cray XE6; GPU Programming with CUDA; and, Hybrid MPI/OpenMP Programming. Attendance is free for EU academics and limited support is available from DEISA to cover costs for a small number of attendees. Please refer to http://www.praceproject.eu/events/ edinburgh-prace-school for further information. ICHEC is also actively working towards the creation of the PRACE training portal, a central resource for consolidated training material from all across Europe (e.g., presentations, videos). For further details on the PRACE project, please refer to http://www.prace-project.eu/.
Introduction to CUDA ICHEC has developed a new course in GPGPU programming that is available to researchers nationwide. As for all of our courses, delivery of this course can be arranged based on demand, i.e., once there is an expression of interest from individuals/groups and a suitable venue and date can be arranged. For further information, please Email email@example.com to arrange a course or to obtain further information. This is an introductory course for programmers using the CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) parallel computing architecture that is being developed by NVIDIA. Similar to other ICHEC courses, about 50% of the course consists of lectures, with the other 50% involving hands-on practical exercises. It is aimed at an audience that is proficient in C/C++ programming. The topics covered on the course are: n overview of GPGPU; n CUDA primitives: thread organisation, kernels; n kernel/function qualifiers; n thread scheduling; n CUDA memory types (e.g., global memory, shared memory, texture memory); n coalesced memory access techniques; and, n overview of available CUDA libraries.
Dr Simon Wong Computational Scientist and Training Co-ordinator
ISSUE 10 : JANUARY 2011 : PAGE 5
Understanding the origins of eukaryotic genes and genomes James A Cotton,a,b and James O McInerneyb a
Department of Biology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth; and, bSchool of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London.
The traditional tree of life shows eukaryotes as a distinct lineage of living things, but many studies have suggested that the first eukaryotic cells were chimeric, descended from both eubacteria (through the mitochondrion) and archaebacteria. However they arose, eukaryote nuclei contain genes of both eubacterial and archaebacterial origins, and these genes have different functions within eukaryotic cells, with eubacterial homologs largely involved in ‘operational’ metabolic processes and archaebacterial homologs largely involved in the ‘informational’ processes of transcription, translation and replication. Our results are based on identifying prokaryote homologs of eukaryotic genes, examining every gene in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome. They support recent studies in showing that many eukaryotic genes are related to prokaryotic genes (2,460 of 6,704 genes), and that 75% of these have eubacterial affinities. We carried out a number of phylogenetic analyses of 1,717 of these gene families, with only the very largest families not subjected to these analyses. The proportions of genes ascribed eubacterial ancestry and archaebacterial ancestry remained similar. These data confirm a significant bias toward archaebacterial homology for genes with informational functions. Although significant, this is not a clear-cut distinction, given that genes with archaebacterial homologs are involved in most of the biological processes of the yeast cell.
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Mapping the data The absolute numbers of homologs suggest a larger role for genes with eubacterial homologs. Absolute numbers do not necessarily tell the whole story, however, given that genes may differ in function in many different ways, such as through different patterns of expression and involvement in different metabolic pathways. To explore this functional dimension, we mapped our homologs onto data from a comprehensive gene knockout study, identifying each gene as having either a lethal or a viable deletion phenotype. Our results showed that lethal genes are more than twice as likely to have archaebacterial homologs than eubacterial homologs. In an effort to explain the greater essentiality of archaebacteriarelated genes, we examined data that might shed light on the differing cellular functions of these genes and their protein products. Using data from RNAseq experiments, we found significantly greater expression of genes with archaebacterial homologs. The average number of tags that could be attached to genes of archaebacterial origin was 164.64, compared with 73.81 for eubacteria. This is a >2-fold difference on average. No significant differences are seen between the expression levels of operational and informational gene categories. We also found that genes with archaebacterial homologs are more central and more highly connected in the yeast protein interaction network (Figure 1), which has been shown to reflect greater essentiality.
FIGURE 1: The yeast protein-protein interaction network. Each vertex is a single Saccharomyces gene, with edges connecting genes whose protein products are known to interact. This difference is partly explained by the greater centrality and connectedness of informational genes, but a statistically significant difference is still observed for operational genes alone (data not shown). Finally, eubacterial homologs show more duplicate copies (paralogs) within the yeast genome, suggesting that a greater degree of genetic redundancy is protecting the cell against deletion of eubacterial homologs. The results indicate that archaebacteriumderived genes are significantly more likely to be essential to yeast viability, are more highly expressed, and are significantly more highly connected and more central in the yeast protein interaction network. These findings hold irrespective of whether the genes have an informational or operational
function, so that many features of eukaryotic genes with prokaryotic homologs can be explained by their origin, rather than their function. Taken together, our results show that genes of archaebacterial origin are in some senses more important to yeast metabolism than genes of eubacterial origin. This importance reflects these genes’ origin as the ancestral nuclear component of the eukaryotic genome. The full publication is available online: Cotton, J.A., McInerney, J.O. Eukaryotic genes of archaebacterial origin are more important than the more numerous eubacterial genes, irrespective of function. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2010; 107: 17252-1255. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1 000265107
Review of 2010
Highlights of an eventful year This has been a particularly eventful and successful year for ICHEC, building on previous initiatives and employing new staff to expand our range of activities. NVIDIA and GPGPUs ICHEC staff have continued to build expertise in the area of graphics accelerators for scientific computations and have worked closely with industry leaders NVIDIA in this area. In recognition of “the outstanding research taking place at ICHEC…”, NVIDIA designated ICHEC as a ‘CUDA Research Centre’, one of only seven in the world at the time, and provided us with some of their latest technology.
days on these additional ‘condos’, the signs are that, as in UCD and NUIM, these ‘local’ resources are attracting a number of new users to Stokes that would not otherwise have availed of these resources (see page 4). This is a perfect example of how innovative thinking can lead to significant savings and efficiencies through the deployment of shared services.
Technology transfer activities As part of our SFI/CSET remit, ICHEC has a responsibility to engage in technology transfer activities. We started this activity early in the year with the appointment of Dr Eoin Brazil. Eoin documents the impressive progress we have made so far in a number of key areas, from business analytics to the application of GPGPUs and HPC to business and industry, on page 8 of this issue.
PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe)
We have continued to consolidate our position in this important partnership to build out a European HPC ecosystem. The EU allocated us a ¤660k grant to work on a number of work packages for Phase I in 2010‘11, and assigned us for an increased role in Phase II of the project, beginning on July 1, 2011. We expect to be able to facilitate access to EU Tier-1 compute resources later this year, a particularly important development for us in light of the termination of the BlueGene capability service on January 1. Our research enablement programme has also leveraged our involvement in PRACE, leading to a number of Irish successes in the DEISA Extreme Computing Initiative, the PRACE Prototype Access and the US DoE INCITE programmes in 2010.
ICHEC’s expertise in weather forecasting and climate generally continues to grow, with the broadening of out partnership with Met Éireann to extreme events analysis (funded by the EPA), and the deployment and operation on the e-INIS infrastructure of data management services for the CMIP5 project (see page 3).
Upgrade of Stokes With the final tranche of e-INIS capital funding, we successfully carried out an upgrade of our main compute cluster, Stokes, providing a much needed increase of 50% in the core count and peak performance, and elevating Stokes to position #330 in the November 2010 Top 500. The upgrade was carried out in a highly efficient manner with the help of SGI and UCD staff, ensuring that the service was interrupted for only one week.
Roll out of condominiums Building on the success of UCD’s and NUIM’s condominium shares, seven institutions bought into the Stokes upgrade cluster. While it is still early
Weather patterns over Ireland.
Irish group awarded US compute time We are pleased to report that a group of researchers led by Dr Turlough Downes of DCU/DIAS has secured compute time on the Intrepid Blue Gene/P system at Argonne National Labs in the US. This very significant compute resource will be used to perform testing and benchmarking in preparation for an application to the US INCITE HPC access programme,
which is open to European applicants. The 2011 call will award 1.6 billion compute hours. As with PRACE applications, ICHEC will support and advise Irish researchers who are interested in this programme to gain access to these state-of-the-art compute facilities. For more information, log on to http://hpc.science.doe.gov.
ISSUE 10 : JANUARY 2011 : PAGE 7
Providing technology solutions for Irish companies An important part of ICHEC’s mission is to help Irish companies to stabilise and grow their business. High-performance computing (HPC) and business analytics are two of the key areas where ICHEC is successfully tackling real business problems for Irish companies to stimulate job creation, improve revenue growth and provide knowledge transfer to enable these companies to utilise cutting-edge techniques in their products and services. Bringing high-performance computing to new domains
Addressing business issues with analytics
Tullow Oil is a leading independent oil and gas exploration and production company, with interests in over 85 exploration and production licences across 22 countries. ICHEC is working with Tullow Oil to optimise their seismic imaging code and assess HPC strategies for this software. As part of this assessment, messaging bottlenecks and areas for optimisation were highlighted within the software and solutions provided. ICHEC is engaged in a long-term relationship with Tullow Oil to address their seismic analysis needs and bring the benefits of the latest developments in HPC to their business. Tullow Oil’s principal geophysicist John Doherty comments:
Analytics is a process that involves the application of statistical and data-mining techniques to historical data with a view to developing a computational model that predicts and improves business performance and planning. ICHEC has been actively engaging with Irish companies in this area to help them identify and address their planning strategies. ezetop and CarTrawler are two companies where ICHEC has been tackling business problems using analytics. ezetop provides an online mobile phone top-up service for over 130 mobile operators in 65 countries worldwide and was the winner of the Rising Star category in the Ireland Deloitte Technology Fast 50 for 2010. This award category recognises younger technology companies who have had the fastest growth in turnover over the last three years. ezetop had a 1215% revenue growth over this period (2006-2009). David Bowles, Head of Online at ezetop, illustrates one business issue they face, where in order to accept a credit card payment for a real-time transaction, they must “make a decision within 10 seconds because we need to deliver that credit to the mobile phone immediately. So we have a problem with a huge element of fraud...” ICHEC has developed a prototype fraud detection solution for ezetop to ensure that fraud can be minimised. ICHEC, ezetop and Enterprise Ireland are now working on avenues to further improve and commercialise this system to address real-time fraud in Internet-based transactions. CarTrawler provides an online car rental solution for over 550 car rental suppliers in 175 countries, covering approximately 25,000 locations. CarTrawler won the Enterprise of the Year Award at the Irish Business & Finance Awards in 2011. This is an award for companies trading for 10 years or less. CarTrawler’s growth in revenue over the past five years (2004-2009) was 544%. ICHEC has worked with CarTrawler staff to improve their existing business reporting and to enhance their forecasting ability. ICHEC identified high-value customers and their booking patterns to supplement existing reporting practices. Historic booking information was used in conjunction with time-series analysis to improve CarTrawler’s forecasting ability, allowing them to predict future demand patterns for specific locations. A short video with a selection of client testimonials is available online at: http://ichec.ie/about_us/intro_video.
“We consider ICHEC to be an industry leader, as evidenced by their recent partnerships with players such as SGI and NVIDIA. So this is evidence to us that they are future proofing their technical solutions and their technical expertise. Secondly, we recognise the huge expertise that exists within the team at ICHEC, working on current and leading edge technologies”. Paddy Power is a world leader in betting and gaming entertainment, employing over 2,400 people worldwide with 1,700 people in Ireland. Its revenue has shown consistent annual growth of 30% for each of the last nine years. Paddy Power provides an online wagering service for a variety of racing, sporting and novelty events. The nature of the business requires the company to be able to handle large volumes of data involving intensive use of CPU power in real time. ICHEC’s expertise in massively parallel computing has significantly helped to accelerate and optimise the company’s processing power. The company plans, with ICHEC’s help, to process large volumes of data in real time using this technology, and to train its staff in utilising hybrid compute systems. Their commercial lead on the project described how a consultancy relationship with ICHEC is different:
“What I was most impressed by was their willingness not only to deliver the solution, the black box, which is desirable, but ultimately, if something goes wrong down the road, then we would be in trouble, but they were anxious to ensure that there was knowledge transfer as well”.
Dr Eoin Brazil ICHEC Senior Software Developer and Technology Transfer Consultant
R O I N N
OIDEACHAIS AGUS EOLAÍOCHTA
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EDUCATION AND SCIENCE
Published on Jan 24, 2011