Lebanon Businessnews News

First supercomputer
is being brought online
Hosted by OGERO, and run

by CNRS and six universities

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The first supercomputer in Lebanon will be brought online in the next few weeks. A High-Performance Computing (HPC) facility, named the High Performance Computing for Lebanon (HPC4L). OGERO Telecom is hosting the facility in its premises in Bir Hassan and is providing high-speed Internet connection in addition to electric power and the cooling system free of charge. It also connects the universities involved in this project to the HPC4L supercomputer through optical links. The HPC was donated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the shipping cost was fundraised from European and local institutions and individuals.

The National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS) and six local universities are expected to start operating in a month’s time the HPC4L facility that will enable them to engage in computationally-intensive research that they could not perform before, said Yousif Asfour, Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

AUB is one of the six universities that will be using the HPC facility and that include the Lebanese American University (LAU), Beirut Arab University, Saint Joseph University of Beirut (USJ), Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), and the Lebanese University. “We like to open it up to other universities and research institutions to join us as well. The target is to use HPC to expand academic research in particular,” Asfour said.

Researchers, both university professors and students, will not be charged fees for using the HPC. Camille Abou-Nasr, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology at LAU, said that the cost of doing research using HPC will fall significantly since in the past such research included outsourcing the service to foreign HPC providers.

Asfour said: “Lebanon has excellent researchers who produce good research but we are very low on resources. This HPC computer adds to our arsenal but we are not yet among the top countries in this field. UAE, for instance, is way ahead of us.”

Private universities participating at the HPC project will bear an annual cost of about $100,000 both in cash and in kind to maintain the facility. Their contributions will include buying spare parts and the work of highly-paid skilled professionals to operate the facility such as system administrators, application support staff, and operators.

The HPC facility has nearly 3,600 computing cores while a regular server usually has 12 to 16 cores. Abou-Nasr said that the added value of a supercomputing tool like the HPC facility is its high storage capacity and the high speed of completing very complex operations. “The operations that used to take days using an ordinary computer could be completed in few hours. This will boost the research output of universities and the CNRS. Universities could also team up to carry out jointly large projects. This was difficult to achieve in the past,” he said. According to Abou-Nasr, the universities were using their own HPC resources which represent just five percent of the capacity provided by the HPC computer. “Using the HPC facility collectively is more efficient than doing it individually with each university using its own resources,” he said.

Asfour said that they have set up a steering committee that is taking requests from different university professors and groups to identify their various areas of interest. “We will then prioritize these requests based on the availability of resources. A lot of the research requests are in physics, astronomy, and possibly medicine and biology,” he said.

The academic research that could be performed through the HPC facility covers multiple areas such as astrophysics, computer science, and social sciences. Businesses can also benefit from university research carried out in the fields of architecture, agriculture, engineering, medicine, genetics, development of chemicals, and drug manufacturing, according to Asfour. HPC is also used in geological surveys and could be employed in gas exploration, he said.
Date Posted: Oct 04, 2022
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