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CSCS gets a new supercomputer

Replacement for “Piz Daint” April 13th, 2021, 6:30 a.m.
The CSCS national high-performance computing center in Lugano is getting a new supercomputer. This is scheduled to go into operation in 2023.
The “Piz Daint” in the CSCS national high-performance computer center in Lugano
Many research projects can hardly be imagined without supercomputers: The natural and social sciences use gigantic amounts of data that have to be processed. The National High-Performance Computing Center CSCS at ETH Zurich has several high-performance computers, including the "Piz Daint". The supercomputer was the most powerful in Europe for a long time and was among the top ten in the world. Last year, however, the computer fell back to 12th place in the top 500 list of supercomputers.
Now the former flagship “Piz Daint” is retired and replaced with the new computer called “Alps”. The Ticino high-performance computing center is working with the US companies Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NVIDIA.
The new computer architecture is intended to advance research in the areas of climate and weather, astrophysics, particle physics or in economics and social sciences. The yardstick by which the CSCS measures its new supercomputer is that scientists should be able to calculate global climate simulations with a resolution of one kilometer.

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“Alps” is to become the most powerful supercomputer in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). According to the announcement, the supercomputer is able to train the world's largest model for machine language processing, GPT-3, in just two days instead of the previous 14 days. This could help former users, for example, to analyze information in scientific work more quickly or to generate new molecules for drug development.
“We don't just get a new computer. In order to make scientific breakthroughs possible, we are converting our data center into a service-oriented research infrastructure in several expansion phases, ”said Thomas Schulthess, ETH physicist and CSCS director. So there should only be one infrastructure in the future. For Meteoschweiz, for example, the CSCS currently operates its own computer. In the future, the calculations are to be carried out on part of the new infrastructure. This is made possible by the software-defined computing infrastructure, which makes the use of the supercomputer more flexible.
With the new computer, the CSCS pays particular attention to its energy efficiency. Because the space in the home of "Alps" with around 2000 square kilometers is limited and the cost of the CO2-free electricity that is to be obtained is comparatively expensive, as Schulthess explained in an interview with Keystone-SDA.



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