Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Intel to open new R&D laboratory in Costa Rica

A new Intel "mega-laboratory" for research and development will open this year in Costa Rica. The new mega-lab will carry out testing and quality control operations for the entire product portfolio before they go on to manufacturing. The new laboratory should start operations in a couple of months, as announced by Intel, and is planning to open about 350 new positions. In addition to the new R&D laboratory, there are ongoing discussions between the Costa Rican government and Intel to open a new laboratory for small and medium sized businesses to share knowledge and collaborate, as a way to spark new initiatives and promote the entrepreneurship in the country.

This new R&D laboratory is a great opportunity to incubate and expand the HPC knowledge in the region. As the purpose of the lab is to test and validate Intel products, Highly skilled engineers will develop more expertise in code parallelization and highly efficient optimization techniques that improve efficiency of HPC applications in terms of time to completion, but also in terms of energy consumption. Furthermore, the new mega-lab is expected to fuel the HPC development in the region, as undergraduate and graduate student do internships in the lab and universities develop collaboration projects with Intel that can lead to new high performance software leveraging features of the Intel products being tested. This initiative could even spark a new IPCC in the region.

The new laboratory comes as wave of fresh air to Costa Rica, as the giant chip manufacturer closed their chip assembly plant in Costa Rica last year. A total of 1500 employees lost their job as part of this restructuring operation. "The best long-term solution to maximize global operational efficiency and effectiveness is to close its assembly and testing operations in Costa Rica" announced Intel in a statement last year. Intel has been operating in Costa Rica since 1997 and produced over $2 billions in annual exports, which represents about 20% of the Costa Rica annual exports. 

While the number of new jobs opened by the new R&D laboratory is just a fraction of the previous manufacturing line, this still represents a great opportunity for engineers and future graduates in the region. Joining the movement, the cloud computing company VMware announced recently that they will be expanding their team in Costa Rica to reach 400 employees in 2015. VMware started operations in Costa Rica in 2012 with only 3 employees. Their quick expansion in the region has been seen as a positive sign for the cloud computing market in Latin America.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Profile of national HPC developments in Latin America - Part III

In this series of posts, we present some of the national developments in high performance computing seen in Latin American countries. Following parts I (Argentina and Brazil), and II (Chile and Colombia), today we discuss Mexico's developments.

Mexico - National Supercomputing Centers and Network

Mexico is one of countries most engaged in high performance computing in Latin America. Their commitment at a national level is visible in different ways. For instance, the Mexican Supercomputing Network (RedMexSu) interconnects seventeen supercomputing centers, universities, and research institutions in the country.  RedMexSu's activities in HPC include the development of infrastructure, services, and training. In order to promote collaboration among its member, it counts with funding to support missions for researchers from graduate level and above.

Mexico counts with two national laboratories, namely the supercomputing efforts at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the National Supercomputing Center (CNS) at the San Luis Potosi Institute of Scientific Research and Technology (IPICyT). LARTop50 lists UNAM's Miztli supercomputer as the fastest supercomputer in Latin America with a theoretical peak performance of 120 TFlops. Nevertheless, access to Miztli is restricted to UNAM faculty. Meanwhile, CNS provides access to its own supercomputer, named Thubat-Kaal, to Mexican researchers and foreign collaborators. Thubat-Kaal provides 115 TFlops of performance split into 140 2xIntel Xeon nodes and 25 nodes with the same processors plus two Xeon Phi ones. This kind of access to supercomputing infrastructure is very important for the development of research in Latin America.

Finally, Mexico has already announced the development of a third national laboratory. The National Supercomputing Laboratory of the Southeast of Mexico (Laboratorio Nacional de Supercómputo del Sureste de México, or LNS), as it is named, will be held at the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla (BUAP). This national center is expected to help in the development of southeastern part of Mexico. For that, it will count with a supercomputer recently bought from Fujitsu, which is anticipated to provide between 100 and 200 TFlops of computing power and to include both Intel Xeon Phi and Nvidia CUDA accelerators. Expect to read more about LNS as its development unfolds this year.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Latin America hosts one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world

That's right, a supercomputer as powerful as the top 2 machine on the most recent Top500 list has its home in the Atacama desert in Chile. Although it may not run the traditional HPC software, it certainly enables cutting-edge scientific exploration.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is a collection of high-precision antennas that work together as a giant telescope. Using high resolution and sensitivity, ALMA provides a window to understand the origin of the universe.  The antennas are installed in the dry Atacama desert at more than 5,000 meters above sea level. Those conditions are ideal for the type of instrument ALMA embodies.

The general idea of the array of antennas is to capture a signal from the sky by two or more antennas and combine them to analyze the signal and get more information about its source. Images result from combining radio waves collected by different antennas. Therefore, ALMA has the ability to photograph the sky and provide valuable information on the life of galaxies. The proper orientation of the antenna collection is of such precision that it is necessary to run heavy computations. Such information makes it possible to have the antennas precisely pointing at the same region of the sky and have coherent signals that will later be combined into a single image. The computation is carried out by a supercomputer, called the ALMA Correlator.

The correlator can be thought as ALMA's brain; without it, the antenna collection wouldn't work properly. The correlator takes signals from the antennas as input, and produces astronomic data for further analysis. The goal of this process is to multiply the signals from the antennas. The result is saved into files called visibilities, which will later be used to make the images. The correlator contains 134 million processors capable of performing 17 quadrillion operations. It requires 140 kilowatts to cool down the processors. In part, such power consumption is due to the thin air of the Atacama desert. High altitude also precludes the use of hard disks, hence the correlator is diskless.

The correlator was built and installed by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and funded by the US National Science Fundation (NSF). It is a fundamental part of the ALMA's puzzle and it is already providing the information necessary to understand how planets, galaxies, and stars form.

For more information about the project, please visit http://www.almaobservatory.org.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New call for proposals STIC-AmSud

In a previous post we presented the regional program STIC-AmSud, which is an initiative to establish collaboration between France and the South American countries to enhance the research networks in the field of information and communication technologies. In this post, we will present the new call for proposals and we will be covering the most important details that you need to know if you want to apply for this call.

Researchers applying for this call should target collaborations that facilitate mobility and participation in workshops and intensive schools for students and professors. The theme needs to be strongly related to information and communication technologies and it should propose innovative directions in this domain. Projects will have a duration of two years, but a report of accomplishments should be submitted at the end of the first year, to continue receiving support during the second year. Projects should involve one French research group and at least two South American research groups. Research groups may belong to research laboratories, public or private, academic institutions or companies.

Concerning the funding, the maximum approved budget is between EUR 10,000 and EUR 15,000 per project per year, although different agencies have their own different regulations. The resources will be delivered annually. Projects submissions should mention their other funding sources and indicate the requested funding for each agency involved in the project. This budget should be used for missions between France and the south american teams involved in the project. It is recommended that missions last less than one week. At least one travel to France and one travel to South America must be done during the duration of the project. Teams are encouraged to organize at least one workshop in South America with all the project participants. It is also important to notice that researchers can participate in several projects but they can benefit from missions from a single project.

The selection criteria includes the innovative nature of the projects, the capacity to involve students and young researchers, the background of the involved teams and their complementarity, the capacity to exchange expertise and innovation, and in particular projects including technology transfers will be appreciated. Teams must pay attention to the regulations, coordinate and protect the intellectual property of the research projects developed under this initiative.

It is important to notice that this program can be used for the development of collaborations in HPC, as was the case of the Latin American Grid for Climate project. This project was a continuation of the GBRAMS-AMSUD project, and resulted in the development of a grid between partners in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay in order to simulate the climate for ten years in different regions of Latin America.

The call for proposals was open on December 15th 2014 and will close on May 15th 2015. The results will be published on November 2015 and the projects should start on January 2016. For more information please visit the STIC AmSud website.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Profile of national HPC developments in Latin America - Part II

In this series of posts, we present some of the national developments in high performance computing seen in Latin American countries. In part I, we focused on Argentina and Brazil. Today, we address Chile and Colombia.

Chile - NLHPC
Chile's National Laboratory for High Performance Computing (NLHPC) was created by the University of Chile (UChile) in conjunction with seven other universities. Its creation was based on an estimated demand for HPC resources by 50 research groups. NLHPC is led by the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of UChile. It focuses on providing HPC services and training for the scientific and industrial public of Chile.

NLHPC maintains two of the most performing supercomputers of Latin America as reported by LARTop50: Leftraru (number 2), composed of HP computing nodes with Intel Xeon and  Xeon Phi processors; and Lefque (number 10), composed of IBM computing nodes with Intel Xeon processors. Some other smaller computing resources of this laboratory are distributed among the participating universities. They are all interconnected through the Chilean National University Network (REUNA). Academic and industrial partners may request access to these resources by submitting a project to NLHPC.

Surprisingly enough, Colombia shows no unified national HPC laboratory or funding system. Even though Colombia has great research centers employing HPC, such as the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BIOS), and Colombian institutions are major participants in international initiatives, such as the Advanced Computing Service for Latin America and the Caribbean (SCALAC) and the RISC project, only Grid Colombia is discussed at the national level and no information can be found about it.

In a more general level, its National Academic Network of Advanced Technology (RENATA) interconnects over 160 Colombian institutions among themselves and the world. RENATA supplies services, tools, and infrastructure to help scientific production. Grid Colombia is said to be one of its projects. One of its most interesting services for HPC right now is RENATA Funding Pivot, which provides tools to help find funding opportunities (which could be turned into HPC resources).