Bob is the new supercomputer in Portugal

Photo credit: FCCN/FCT

Portugal will greatly expand its capacity in advanced computing, with the start of operations of a new Portuguese supercomputer and the activities of the Minho Advanced Computing Center (MACC), within the scope of the UT Austin Portugal Program.

July 5 of 2019 marked the official launch of the first supercomputer in Portugal and the inauguration of MACC, that “focuses on innovation through advanced computing”, states Rui Oliveira, National Co-Director of the Program and Director of MACC.

Formalized in late 2017 through the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) and the University of Minho (UMinho), the first supercomputer operating in Portugal has a memory capacity of 266TBytes, 1 PetaByte of storage, and calculations at speed of 1 PFlop. It is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.

Named after Robert Peterson, current Associate Dean for Research at McCombs School of Business at UT Austin and originator of the idea to bring the supercomputer to Portugal, Bob is an advanced computing Stampede 1 infrastructure, provided to FCT by the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) of UT Austin, within the framework of the UT Austin Portugal Program. It was as a symbolic gesture to Peterson, who immensely dedicated his work to the UT Austin Portugal Program during the last decade, as a member of the Board of Directors and Principal Investigator of the international partnership.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center has also had a tremendous role in the creation of this new infrastructure. “The collaboration with TACC in this third phase of the UT Austin Portugal partnership has been strongly reinforced in several levels. What before has been essentially confined to the computational support from TACC to domain scientists, has been now expanded to the use of all the partnerships instruments to enable collaboration from HPC science and engineering research, design and operation”, declares Rui Oliveira.

Photo credit: FCCN/FCT

“The Bob supercomputer provides roughly ten times the computational power available in the Portuguese scientific computing network”, he continues. It will increase the national computing capacity, being able to execute a thousand billion operations per second, which will be highly significant for Portuguese research centres that develop ground-breaking work in the field of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. “Many Portuguese researchers will be able to run their main experiments in MACC before going elsewhere for larger runs” now having access to much larger HPC infrastructure.

Bob will enable numerous advantages when it comes to digital processing of information and will create great opportunities for Portuguese scientists and companies, helping the development, creating and designing new products and solutions. “Start-ups and established companies will be welcome and promoted”, adds Rui Oliveira.

Within the scope of the national strategy InCoDe.2030 and in the specific context of the National Advanced Computing Strategy, the new facilities will also strengthen the Iberian Network of Advanced Computing (RICA) and the European initiative EuroHPC – European High Performance Computing. The equipment will also be used for the processing of data from the Atlantic International Research Center (AIR Center), for the study of climate, space and oceans matters.

Photo credit: FCCN/FCT

The supercomputer is now installed in the REN Data Center, at Riba d’Ave in Minho, managed by REN and NOS, and will support the activities of MACC and of FCT, which will also be who will manage the infrastructure, in partnership with the University of Minho.

By the end of 2020, a second machine, called Deucalion, will also be installed at MACC. The Deucalion will be able to run at least 10 PFlops.