Fusion research needs High Performance Computing. So far, EUROfusion took advantage of the Japan-based supercomputer Helios. Now, that Helios will be phased out by the end of 2016, the fusion consortium decided to go full steam ahead. EUROfusion has finally bought parts of a modern supercomputer in Italy which will demonstrate head spinning capabilities.

Marconi-Fusion

Marconi-Fusion

Much faster than your laptop

Since 2013 the Japanese Helios had been computing complex simulations for EUROfusion. The machine had a peak performance of around 1.5 petaflops, or floating point operations per second. It measures the number of calculations the computer can run simultaneously in one second. For comparison, a modern personal computer could run 200 gigaflop of operations in one second. In comparison: the Helios computer in Japan is already 10,000 times faster than an ordinary laptop.

Irina Voitsekhovitch (leftmost) in talks with Elda Rossi (CINECA) at the supercomputing facility in Italy. The machine will be hosted in Bologna. Pictures: Mbou Margherita Libouri/Cineca

Irina Voitsekhovitch (leftmost) in talks with Elda Rossi (CINECA) at the supercomputing facility in Italy. The machine will be hosted in Bologna. Pictures: Mbou Margherita Libouri/Cineca

Flop, Flop

Once it is completely set up, which will be in the middle of 2017, the young and fresh Italian Marconi-Fusion computer should be capable of a total computational power of around 6 petaflop per second thanks to the modern generation of Intel Xeon processors. A petaflop means 1015 operations per second, a total of a one quadrillion head-spinning calculations in the very same moment. This is what you need in order to be able to identify the origins of plasma turbulences. These turbulences could, in a worst case scenario, destroy the fusion experiment.

Testing your car virtually

“It is like testing a new car. You could crash a real car but that’s a very expensive experiment. So, even automotive manufacturers use computer simulations in order to see, for instance, how materials will respond in the event of a crash“, says Roman Hatzky, the leader of EUROfusion’s High Level Support team. His support team helps scientists to optimise their plasma simulation codes for HighPerformance Computers. Along with EUROfusion’s Responsible Officer Irina Voitsekhovitch he collaborates closely with ENEA and its third party CINECA, the Italian non-profit consortium which has set up Marconi-Fusion.

Irina Voitsekhovitch (leftmost) with François Robin from CEA (in the back) and Carlo Cavazzoni from CINECA during  a first inspection of the newly set up supercomputer. Pictures: Mbou Margherita Libouri/Cineca

Irina Voitsekhovitch (leftmost) with François Robin from CEA (in the back) and Carlo Cavazzoni from CINECA during a first inspection of the newly set up supercomputer. Pictures: Mbou Margherita Libouri/Cineca

ENEA is going to handle it

In 2015 EUROfusion’s highest decision-making body, the General Assembly, has chosen to allow Italian Research Unit ENEA to handle the system. They have worked out a joint development agreement with CINECA which hosts the new supercomputer. EUROfusion will use only part of Marconi’s computational powers. The other half will be used for Cineca’s internal work and tasks within the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) which supports multi-disciplinary research in Europe.

While the supercomputer currently runs some tests for EUROfusion, the machine will officially be launched in September this year, with first fusion calculations foreseen from 1 October 2017 onwards.

Read about the previous steps from the High Performance Computer For Fusion to Helios here: https://www.euro-fusion.org/newsletter/highperformance-computer-for-fusion-goes-offline/