“High-performance computing has become a fundamental part of research”

ICHEC Director Prof JC Desplat discusses the research fields using high-efficiency computing and the work of the center in the quantum space.

Prof Jean-Christophe (‘JC’) Desplat is the director of the Irish Center for High-End Computing (ICHEC). A technical expert with more than 25 years of experience in high-performance computing (HPC), his interest lies in the innovative use of these technologies in emerging domains.

In 2017, Desplat shared their insights with SiliconRepublic.com on how corporate culture can be nurtured and why Arsène Wenger can be considered a business hero. Here, he discusses the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on ICHEC and the current research areas the center is focused on.

“It is important that the deeply entrenched silo approach to technology that has prevailed over the past decades does not preclude opportunities for Ireland.”
– PROF JC DESPLAT

Describe some of the issues you encountered in your role during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Future Man

ICHEC is Ireland’s national center for high-performance computing hosted by NUI Galway, but is a technology-focused organization with a highly multinational staff base. My first challenge was the same as any employer who had to manage staff from home environments under restrictions.

At present, the challenge is not only to find a properly qualified specialist ready to relocate to Ireland, but also to keep them in the difficult environment we all know (cost of living, housing crisis, chronic skills shortage, etc.).

In addition to this we also compete with the private sector for the same talent – where they offer higher salaries and various other benefits, we offer exciting career trajectories with high levels of job satisfaction.

At a functional level, service delivery has not been significantly affected by Covid-19 restrictions because our processes are distributed by design. Users and stakeholders reported no deterioration in the quality of service and expressed their gratitude for this.

How has HPC evolved in recent years?

Covid-19 coincided with a growing increase in demand for HPC services. HPC has become a fundamental part of research and scientific progress across all disciplines and especially in climate computing, digital twins of Earth systems, health care and medicine, and materials science.

A major technological disruption also occurs as we speak, with several digital technologies converging into a “digital continuum”. The most significant innovation of this decade will accelerate within this continuum, and it is important that the deep-rooted silo approach to technology that has prevailed over the past decades does not preclude opportunities for Ireland.

Which research fields benefit most from HPC modeling?

HPC is a multidisciplinary cutting across all research fields and areas. Its traditional advantages include shortened time to solution (near-real-time in extreme cases), high throughput applications (such as chemistry to examine candidate molecules for drug design), and large-scale or computer-demanding models (such as for material design or climate). models).

In order for Ireland to continue its ambition however, significant investments will be required to transition to the kind of new data center platforms introduced earlier. While traditional HPC platforms like Kay has served well those researchers with major computer-related problems, it no longer offers the necessary features and flexibility for advanced data center workflows and applications.

In Ireland, this situation has resulted in significant cohorts of researchers left without the necessary tools and platforms to advance internationally competitive research. Emerging communities such as those utilizing artificial intelligence, precision medicine and many others, as well as those requiring access to large data collections, have been particularly punished by the limitations of the current infrastructure.

What work has the ICHEC done on climate?

Climate modeling research at ICHEC involves working with national partners such as the EPA, Met Eireann, Marine Institute, SEAI, OPW and GSI to simulate climate change on a global and national scale, as well as rebuild Ireland’s historic climate.

The first major component of climate research at ICHEC involves simulating climate change worldwide using the EC Earth-to-Earth System Model. A large set of EC Earth simulations was run on the ICHEC supercomputer system.

These simulations consist of Ireland’s contribution to the Couped Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) and their results informed the report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was published in August 2021.

A second component of ICHEC’s climate modeling research involves simulating the future climate on a national (and European) scale in good detail. This research involves downsizing CMIP data to provide high-resolution regional climate projections for Ireland using both standard atmosphere-only and connected atmospheric-ocean-wave regional climate models.

The ICHEC climate team is also working to improve Ireland’s climate observation data by simulating the historical climate in great detail. The resulting databases have the potential to be used in a wide range of applications, including agricultural, public health, energy, insurance, socioeconomic planning and fundamental studies in observed climate change trends and variability.

Can you tell us about the platform that ICHEC is working on to provide researchers with access to health data?

ICHEC has been awarded funding by the Health Research Board develop a prototype infrastructure maintain safe and secure access to both link health and related data for research. This infrastructure separates personal data from medical data.

It can then link individuals based on their identifying information across those databases and replace this information with a nonsensical identifier to protect the identity of individuals. A locked security environment has also been developed to allow approved researchers to securely access and analyze this pseudonymous data.

Facilitating safe and secure access of researchers to health and related data will have huge benefits for public health. Therefore, ICHEC is also working with the relevant stakeholders on the governance and legislative requirements for the launch of national infrastructure after completion of this proof of concept.

What are ICHEC’s goals for its Quantum Program Initiative (QPI)?

Nia quantum initiative progress in planning and we are optimistic that in the current year we will make further announcements as part of QPI.

Our current focus is on two fronts. First, with the development and provision of advanced programs, in close association with Skillnet Ireland and HEI, to anticipate and address the rapid growth of demand for quantum programming capabilities across the industry.

Second, with the development of new algorithms for hybrid computing. This new model represents the advancement of quantum programming and as such is an area of ​​strategic importance.

As illustrated throughout Council of Europe Regulations and the EuroQCS plain white paperHPC and quantum computing must be considered as closely related technologies and the ability to combine their strength within a single platform represents a domain where Europe can legally claim global leadership.

Finally, we are committed to developing additional partnership programs with industry, such as the successful one Quantum PFAS Chemicals Remediation recently completed with Accenture Labs.

Which SME sectors show the most demand for advanced modeling techniques?

What is interesting with the SME sectors is the diversity of domains that now realize the potential of HPC when coupled with the vast amounts of data that every organization has access to.

Traditional sectors such as healthcare, finance and large production continue to have a high demand for HPC, but non-traditional sectors such as construction, services and light production have realized the potential of HPC.

ICHEC offers accessible programs such as the EuroCC SME Accelerator and the demand is growing – we currently have a waiting list of companies looking to access HPC expertise. This is proof of the reality that HPC is becoming the mainstay and is accessed by many companies using web-based providers.

However, maintaining capabilities in the fast-moving domains, accessing and retrieving data from the cloud creates problems downstream that business enterprises should be wary of.

10 things you need to know right in your inbox every workday. Sign up for the Daily ShortSilicon Republic’s summary of key science and technology news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.