BSC-CNS: Year in Review

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2014 Review

Mateo Valero, Director of BSC-CNS, and
Francesc Subirada, Associate Director of BSC-CNS

We are very proud to say that 2014 was another year of strong growth and development at BSC-CNS, with excellent scientific results from all research departments, strong growth in project activity and increased diversity of industrial collaborations.

The mission of BSC-CNS is to investigate, develop and manage information technology in order to facilitate scientific progress.

The work carried out by the scientists at BSC-CNS resulted in over 155 journals, books and book chapter publications, and some 205 key conference presentations. Additionally, BSC-CNS researchers presented numerous workshops at both national and international levels, and the Centre hosted a number of key international events.

BSC-CNS has established its international profile as a leader in both HPC research and interaction with leading industry, as evidenced by its ever-increasing capacity to attract international talent from around the world for both fundamental and applied research activities. During 2014, some 513 people performed research or provided support at the Centre. Some 37% of staff are of foreign nationality, with over 48 countries represented including: Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Fed., Serbia, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam and Spain.

As can be seen in the charts to the right, the vast majority of BSC-CNS staff are funded by competitive projects or prestigious personal fellowships such as ICREA, Marie Curie, Ramón y Cajal, and many others. That BSC-CNS has grown so strongly through competitive funding of research staff during the economic crisis of recent years is testament to the relevance and excellence of its research programs to European, national and industrial research priorities, and to the quality of its people. Highlights in this area include the three Advanced ERC Grants held by senior researchers at BSC-CNS. ERC grants are considered amongst the most distinguished and competitive of European grants, and the three projects are recognition of their groundbreaking research activities. Of particular note is BSC-CNS´s first ERC Proof-of-Concept grant, awarded to Dr. Víctor Guallar to facilitate the translation of his research results into a commercial product.

In 2014, BSC-CNS participated in one hundred and twelve externally funded projects, with a total BSC-CNS grant of over thirty-nine million euros. Forty-six projects were funded by the extremely competitive Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (FP7) and the Centre began its first project funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. Five of the FP7 projects were led by BSC-CNS, in which the Centre coordinated partners based all around Europe. One project was funded by the Artemis Joint Technology Initiative on embedded computing. Twenty-five projects were funded by Spanish National or Catalan funds including the Centre’s Severo Ochoa award and its Consolider projects. Of the other projects, twenty-four were research activities funded by private companies, eight were funded by Spanish and international public bodies, including the UN, Barcelona City Council, Fusion for Energy and ITER, and four were funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Marató funding program, which supports scientific research into diseases which are currently incurable, financed two of the projects through donations from the public. The Centre also managed numerous personnel grants funded by ICREA, la Caixa, and CONACYT, among many others.

BSC-CNS Achieves HR Excellence in Research Award

As a direct result of actions initiated as part of the Severo Ochoa Programme, in 2014 BSC-CNS achieved the HR Excellence in Research Award, bestowed by the European Commission in recognition of the Centre´s progress in aligning human resource policies with the principles set out in the European Charter and Code for Researchers, and providing a stimulating and favourable working environment where researchers can expect fair and transparent recruitment practices and appraisal procedures.

The year also saw further hardware and systems development of MareNostrum III, the main supercomputer at BSC-CNS. These include a new server to perform specific pre- and post-processing analysis requiring large shared memory systems, upgraded nodes to accommodate memory-bound parallel applications, two new servers based on the cutting-edge Power8 processor technology to perform research in Big Data, computer architecture and parallel application development, security enhancements for access, and a BigData infrastructure to receive and store all MareNostrum III jobs information. A new User Portal interface was launched, enabling users to better understand the behaviour of their applications and the resources used during their execution.

MareNostrum III is one of only six nodes in four countries that together form the pan-European PRACE (European HPC Infrastructure Initiative) Tier-0 network, which provides world-class supercomputing services to European scientists, and as such 70% of its capacity is dedicated to PRACE. A further 24% of MareNostrum III capacity, along with capacities provided by other nodes in the Spanish Supercomputing Network (RES), is available for public access via the Spanish (RES) Access Protocol, thus guaranteeing Spanish scientists access to first-class supercomputing services. The final 6% capacity is reserved for use by BSC-CNS scientists.

Efficient Computing
A major achievement of MareNostrum III has been its power efficiency. Two full years of operation of Mare-

Nostrum III have delivered a 10-fold increase in computing power over the previous MareNostrum II, with an increased power consumption of only 10%. This significant achievement is due to the advanced technologies developed and deployed by BSC-CNS and the diligent management of the facility by the BSC-CNS Operations Department.

A total of 237 activities were run on RES nodes during 2014. This brings to more than 2.380 the number of different projects awarded computing time on the RES network since its establishment in 2006. Despite large increases in computing capacities in previous years, demand continues to exceed supply with an increasingly diverse array of scientists requesting access. In 2014, BSC-CNS increased dissemination and training events in order to support both users and RES node technicians.

Patrons of BSC-CNS
BSC-CNS is a legally autonomous, public consortium, with three founding partners: the Spanish Ministry of

Economy and Competitivity (MINECO), the Departament d'Economia i Coneixement (DECO) of the Catalan government, and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya • BarcelonaTech (UPC). The voting representation is divided between MINECO (51%), DECO (37%), and UPC (12%).

The income of BSC-CNS in 2014 was €25 M, of which €13.7 M corresponded to ordinary budget and strategic investments funded by the patrons of BSC-CNS, the Spanish and Catalan Governments; and €11.2 M from competitive projects (up from €10.1 M in the previous year), just under a third of which was derived from projects with private companies.

Since its inception, BSC-CNS has collaborated with many of the world’s leading IT companies. Industrial collaborations have grown year on year, and now include many major IT companies (IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA and SAMSUNG), as well as major multinationals from the energy sector (Repsol and Iberdrola), space technologies with the European Space Agency, applications in Life sciences with multinational biotech and pharmaceutical companies (Astrzeneca, Novozymes and Schrödinger), and major global public agencies relating to climate and air pollution modelling (WMO, NOAA and UNEP). A total of 32 private projects with industry and public agencies were active in 2014.

Technology transfer at BSC-CNS reached a new milestone in 2014 with the Board approving the formation of the Centre´s first spin-off company, Nostrum Biodiscovery, to offer chemical computational services (principally drug discovery). BSC-CNS is developing technologies in a broad range of industrially-relevant areas, including IT hardware and software (programming models, performance tools, energy efficient hardware, middleware and system software); bioinformatics tools for target and drug discovery; embedded electronics for improving safety in time-critical applications; air quality, weather and climate modelling products; and simulations of complex problems.

HPC and Big Data
BSC-CNS is focusing very strongly on developing HPC technologies for Big Data applications. Big Data problems requiring rapid processing of massive amounts of data are increasing in importance in many scientific and technological fields, including biomedicine, environment, smart cities, mining and resources, engineering and even social sciences. BSC-CNS has been working for many years on

improving HPC capabilities for these sorts of applications, from energy-efficient hardware to user-friendly programming models and performance tools. Boosted by the Severo Ochoa programme and participation in major Big Data projects such as PanCancer, the International Cancer Genome Consortium, TransPLANT, Human Brain Flagship, and multi-scale dust and pollution modelling for Europe and North Africa, the increasing convergence of HPC and Big Data was a major feature of BSC-CNS research in 2014.

At the European level, BSC-CNS plays a very active role in the HPC Technology Platform and PRACE, which respectively define and implement the vision for the future of HPC infrastructure for R&D in Europe. Senior BSC-CNS staff regularly participate in committees, roadmapping forums, and international liaison activities, while BSC-CNS and its patrons remain committed to maintaining Tier-0 status as a key node in the PRACE network servicing scientists throughout Europe and beyond.
JLESC - Joint Laboratory on Extreme Scale Computing
In 2014, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, INRIA, Argonne National Laboratory, Jülich Supercomputing Centre, Riken AICS and BSC-CNS came together to form the Joint Laboratory on Extreme Scale Computing (JLESC). The Joint Laboratory focuses on software challenges found in extreme scale high-performance computers.

Research areas include: ● Scientific applications (Big Compute and Big Data). ● Modelling and optimising numerical libraries, which are at the heart of many scientific applications. ● Novel programming models and runtime systems to take full advantage of extreme-scale supercomputers. ● Resilience and fault-tolerance research, which reduces the negative impact when processors, disk drives, or memory fail in supercomputers. ● I/O and visualisation for numerical simulations and data analytics. ● HPC Clouds.

During 2014, BSC-CNS developed and participated in a record number of project proposals under the European H2020 framework. This reflects the broad range of HPC-related disciplines developed at BSC-CNS, including Big Data, Extreme Scale Computing, Open MP, alternative architectures, performance tools and grid computing, to name a few. In addition to research excellence, BSC-CNS places great importance on training at all levels. The appointment in recent years of dedicated education and training staff is bearing fruit with a range of new training initiatives underway, including professional training programs (PRACE, RES and CUDA courses), research seminars, joint activities with universities (MSc in HPC, scholarships and internships), scientific workshops and renowned summer schools.

At the international level, BSC-CNS is driving the establishment of the RISC network (Iberoamerican Supercomputing Network) via CYTED (Iberoamerican Program for Science and Technology Development). Involving Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Italy, México, Portugal and Spain, RISC aims to deepen strategic R&D cooperation between Europe and Latin America in HPC by building a multinational and multistakeholder community, including researchers, policy makers and users.

Support and Research
BSC-CNS, which provides support to other research institutes, as well as undertaking primary research in its own right, is organised into 6 core departments: Computer Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, Computer

Applications in Science & Engineering (CASE), Operations and Management.

The various departments have a number of scientific research groups, each headed by a team leader, which focus their activities on the study of hardware and system software for the supercomputers of the future and on the application of computer simulation to the underlying physical processes of nature, with particular focus on Life, Earth and Engineering sciences. The support functions provide technical and operational support to internal and external researchers and scientists, collaborators and other institutions and industrial partners. In particular, the Operations Department also manages all activities relating to the MareNostrum supercomputer and access to the other nodes of the RES.

The Computer Sciences Department continued its strong research in all areas of HPC development and its deep collaborations with industry leaders, including Intel, NVIDIA, Microsoft, IBM, Samsung, Xilinx, and Qualcomm, amongst others. In addition to continued expansion of international collaborations with other leading HPC centres, in particular through the JLESC network, the Department is increasingly interacting with the other research departments of BSC-CNS on multi-disciplinary projects. This is due in large part to the Severo Ochoa program.

Highlights of 2014 include the Department's participation in some 27 European FP7 projects, two ERC grants, ongoing participation in key networks such as ETP4HPC, HiPEAC-3, and the SCALUS Marie Curie training network, the ever-broadening array of industrial collaborations, and projects with the European Space Agency.

The Earth Sciences Department experienced a major change in November 2014 with the retirement of director José María Baldasano after almost 10 years at the helm, and the appointment of Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes as the new director, with Prof. Baldasano remaining at BSC-CNS as a research fellow. ICREA Prof. Doblas-Reyes joins BSC-CNS from the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences (IC3) where his main research focused on climate variability, modelling and prediction for the development of climate services on time scales ranging from one month to several years.

The Department continued its extensive activities in modelling atmospheric dust and pollution, including running the daily high-resolution operational air quality forecasts for Europe and Spain under the umbrella of the CALIOPE project, and also mineral dust forecasts for the Euro-Mediterranean region and East Asia. A highlight of the year was the creation in February of the Barcelona Dust Forecast Center, the first Regional Specialized Meteorological Center with activity specialisation on Atmospheric Sand and Dust Forecast (RSMC-ASDF). It operationally generates and distributes predictions for Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe.

The Life Sciences Department also saw new developments in 2014 with the integration of researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) into the Joint IRB-BSC Research Program on Computational Biology. The Department worked in a diverse range of European projects and industrial collaborations, producing a number of notable scientific discoveries in structural biology and genomics. The Centre´s first spin-off company was approved to commercialise a number of drug discovery tools developed by the Department, and an ERC Proof-of-Concept grant helped refine the Department´s PELE platform for drug design for more commercial applications.

The CASE Department underwent a restructure during 2014 to better support the increasing diversity of the Department´s industrial collaborations. The new structure consists of three horizontal groups that develop core components and tools, which are used by the other three vertical groups who develop complete solutions to problems in Environmental, Geoscience and Computational Mechanics fields. Work continued on long-term projects with Repsol and Iberdrola, while a number of international collaborations in the biomedical field (cardiovascular and respiratory simulations) achieved significant progress thanks to support by the Severo Ochoa program.

The Operations Department performed further upgrades of BSC-CNS´s HPC installations, and launched a new interface for users providing them with better understandings of the performance of their applications. The acquisition of IBM´s server business by Lenovo gave new impetus to the Department´s plans for future developments of the MareNostrum supercomputer, which is based on IBM hardware. The Department also participated in a number of strategic projects at European level, such as PRACE 2nd and 3rd Implementations, EESI2 to develop a vision of future European Petaflop machines, EUDAT to provide a pan-European solution for research data, and RDA Europe to conduct cross-infrastructure experiments on global interoperability.

Directors' Office
The Directors' Office is a small cadre of multidisciplinary individuals who manage a variety of strategic actions directly promoted by the BSC-CNS Director and Associate Director. These include the Directors' personal assistants, the co-ordinator of the Severo Ochoa program, the coordinators for European Relations and Latin American Relations, the Education and Training team, and the

coordinator of Media Relations and Protocol.

Summing up, 2014 saw BSC-CNS continue to provide world-class supercomputing services to scientists throughout Spain and Europe, while continuing strong growth in research activities in areas of high relevance to a range of industrial and societal needs. The challenges posed by the new European H2020 funding program were met head-on, with the Centre demonstrating its capacity for adaptability combined with long-term strategic vision to emerge as a strong leader at national and European levels in key research consortia and networks. The sustained growth of the Centre over many years has created new challenges in areas such as human resources and other support services. The Severo Ochoa program has been critical in helping BSC-CNS step up to the next level, as evidenced by the HR Excellence in Research award and other key achievements of the Centre´s support departments.

The Directors wish to extend their profound thanks to all BSC-CNS staff, students, and collaborators, and in particular recognise the continued strong support of the BSC-CNS patrons, MINECO, DECO and UPC, and other key funding and support agencies such as the European Commission, Repsol, ICREA, CSIC and the European Research Council. It is thanks to the dedication, effort and commitment of the whole team that this very positive report on 2014 has been achieved.

Mateo Valero, Director...................Francesc Subirada, Associate Director

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