VSC-4: Austria’s New Supercomputer

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The ‘Vienna Scientific Cluster 4’ (VSC-4) is the most powerful computer ever operated in Austria. It is being installed in a joint project between five Austrian universities – TU Wien, the University of Vienna, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), TU Graz and the University of Innsbruck – with considerable financial support from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF).

The computer cluster was installed at TU Wien by Vienna-based company EDV-Design, who will also be responsible for maintaining it over the next six years. It is currently functional but it will still be another few weeks before the acceptance process is completed. The cluster built by Lenovo should then be available for scientific calculations in late autumn. Its performance of 2.7 petaflops (one petaflop is a million billion floating-point operations per second) makes VSC-4 more than four times more powerful than its predecessor VSC-3. This marks the first time the petaflop barrier has been broken in Austria, putting VSC-4 in 82nd place in the world rankings.

More Powerful Through Cooperation

“The strategy developed by the VSC partner universities, of jointly operating an internationally competitive supercomputer, has really paid off in recent years,” says Prof. Regina Hitzenberger, Vice Rector for Infrastructure at the University of Vienna, and Prof. Johannes Fröhlich, Vice Rector for Research and Innovation at TU Wien, representing the VSC owners. “The support from the Ministry of Science has meant that together we can provide our research groups with first-class infrastructure in the field of high-performance computing. It would not have been possible for any of the universities to achieve something of this calibre by themselves.”

 “VSC-4 guarantees that research at the Austrian scientific hub in the field of high-performance computing can continue to play a pioneering role in the future,” says Federal Minister Iris Rauskala.

VSC-4 was commissioned in December 2018 and provisionally put into operation on 18 June 2019. “It is now functional in principle, but with large-scale computers such as these it always takes a bit of time for the acceptance process to be completed and for the computer to be able to enter into normal operation,” says Prof. Herbert Störi, the head of the VSC Research Centre. “The acceptance process is progressing extremely well. We are quite confident that VSC-4 will be available for use for scientific calculations from autumn as planned”. Benchmark tests have already been carried out and the results are extremely positive: the VSC-4 is ranked 82nd in the list of the world’s top supercomputers.

In total, the VSC-4 supercomputer has more than 790 nodes, each with 2 processors with 24 cores, so a total of 37,929 processor cores. This enables VSC-4 to achieve a peak performance of 3.7 petaflops (2.7 petaflops in continuous operation). To save energy, VSC-4 has been equipped with a specially designed, efficient water cooling system.

From the Big Bang to the Field of Medicine

Like its predecessors VSC, VSC-2 and VSC-3, the VSC-4 will also be used for a large number of very different research areas. The supercomputer will be used for simulations of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang, as well as for bioinformatics and medical simulations. Quantum physical calculations for the development of new materials will be just as important here as models for optimum management of public transport. Extremely high performance large-scale computers are currently indispensable in a large number of different research areas.



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