SWITCH Joins the hpc-ch Community

Some weeks ago SWITCH joined the hpc-ch community as a guest. SWITCH is a foundation created by the Swiss University cantons and the Federal Government with the mission to provide innovative, unique internet services for the Swiss universities. SWITCH is also the major Swiss contributor to the EGI-InSPIRE project (grid computing).

SWITCH will be represented in hpc-ch by Res Aeschlimann. We asked Res to tell us about the commitment of Switch to HPC and grid computing.

Q: What is the commitment of Switch to HPC?

A: SWITCH is not operating any HPC infrastructure and there are no such plans today. For SWITCH, the hpc-ch is the forum to meet the HPC community and understand their needs.

Q: The provision of grid services is coordinated at European and Swiss levels by different organizations and projects. Can you please give us an overview of the  players and their activities? (EGI, EGI-InSPIRE, SwiNG, Swiss NGI, EMI, SMSCG)

The European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) is a foundation under Dutch law aiming at creating and maintaining a pan-European Grid Infrastructure.  The EGI-InSPIRE project (Integrated Sustainable Pan-European Infrastructure for Researchers in Europe) will coordinate the transition from a project-based system (the EGEE series) to a sustainable pan-European e-Infrastructure. The four-year project, co-funded by the European Commission, started on 1 May 2010 as a collaborative effort involving more than 50 institutions, the so-called National Grid Initiatives (NGI’s), in over 40 countries. Switzerland participates in InSPIRE with contributions from ETHZ, UZH and SWITCH, whereby SWITCH acts temporarily as leading beneficiary. In 2012, SwiNG will take over this role from SWITCH.

On the national level, Grid Computing is one of the four domains that SWITCH is fostering in the framework of the AAA/SWITCH co-operation project. Many Grid projects at several Swiss sites have now emerged, with the Swiss Multi Science Compute Grid SMSCG being the largest one.

One of the major operational challenges in European Grid Computing is the fact that different middleware stacks have evolved over the past years. The European Middleware Initiative (EMI) of which SWITCH is a partner is addressing this issue and promises to deliver a consolidated set of middleware components for deployment in EGI by Spring 2013. Switzerland is currently operating gLite and ARC and will therefore certainly profit from the outcome of this project.

Q: For what applications is grid computing actually being used productively in Switzerland?

From what I see, the most popular and complete applications can be found in the context of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG), a large project involving more than 140 computer centers in 34 countries. Today, more and more research projects from other fields like Bioinformatics or Computational Chemistry are attracted by the abilities Grid Computing provides to research communities and therefore start to make use of this service in a very natural way.

Q: What are your expectations being guest of hpc-ch?

HPC, Cloud and Grid Computing are often put close to each other when looked at from a higher level. However, many specific characteristics make each of them to a computational discipline in its own right. Users need to know about the specific advantages of any of these fields in order to tackle their research questions in an optimal way. Meeting the involved people from time to time will provide a deeper understanding of the specific characteristics of at least two of these disciplines, which in my view will lead to a quality increase in the support we give to our users.