What is a computer and a supercomputer

High and high performance computing

High-performance computing is an integral part of numerous research fields: for example in energy research, materials and life sciences or climate research. High-performance computing is a critical factor for the success of Germany as a science and research location.

With the program “High-Performance Computing for the Digital Age - Research and Investments in High-Performance Computing”, the BMBF is strategically aligning the funding and financing of high-performance computing in Germany to the coming decade.

High-performance computing is part of technological sovereignty

With the program, the BMBF wants to create a comprehensive range of computers and competencies that will continue to meet the needs of science and research industry in the digital age in the future. Together with its European partners, Germany wants to provide high-performance computing in a previously unattainable performance class - including by procuring exascale computers - and thus secure global competitiveness for Germany as a business and innovation location in the field of supercomputing.

The BMBF promotes the expansion, operation and networking of high-performance and high-performance computers, creates the conditions for sustainable and powerful data technologies, applications and infrastructures and thus makes a contribution to the digital and technological sovereignty of Germany and the European Union.

Efficient structures of high-performance computing in Germany

In Germany and internationally, the range of high-performance computing for science is structured on several levels - according to the performance of the computers and the complexity of the applications.

Level 1: The Gauss Center for Supercomputing

The three most powerful data centers in Germany are united under the umbrella of the "Gauss Center for Supercomputing" (GCS):

  • High-performance computing center of the University of Stuttgart (HLRS)
  • Leibniz data center of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in Garching near Munich (LRZ)
  • Supercomputing Center at Forschungszentrum Jülich (JSC)

The BMBF and the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia support the centers equally. The total output of the three top systems is over 130 PetaFLOPS (as of November 2020).

Level 2: Supraregional data centers and national high-performance computing

Level 2 currently comprises twelve established, supraregional HPC centers with high-performance computers at research institutions and universities.

Together with the federal states, the BMBF funds the coordinated network for national high-performance computing. It currently consists of eight computer centers from universities that were selected in a science-led process:

  • NHR4CES @ RWTH - IT Center - RWTH Aachen
  • NHR @ ZIB - Zuse Institute Berlin - Berlin University Alliance
  • NHR4CES @ TUDa - Hochschulrechenzentrum (HRZ) - Technische Universität Darmstadt
  • ZIH - Center for Information Services and High Performance Computing - Technical University of Dresden
  • NHR @ FAU - Regional Computing Center Erlangen - University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • NHR @ GWDG - Society for Scientific Data Processing mbH Göttingen - University of Göttingen
  • NHR @ KIT - Steinbuch Center for Computing (SCC) - Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • PC2 - Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing - University of Paderborn

In addition to providing computing capacities with shared user access, one focus of the NHR network is to strengthen methodological skills through coordinated training and further education for users and, in particular, for young scientists.

Level 3: Powerful computers throughout Germany

Level 3 consists primarily of regional computers that serve a large number of applications with lower performance requirements for local needs. These are available and operated at most university locations and research institutions.

The three data centers on level 1, 16 centers on levels 2 and 3 and the German research network are combined in the Gauss Alliance. The members together operate around 40 HPC systems throughout Germany with a current output of around 190 PetaFLOPS (as of November 2020).

A European ecosystem

In 2018 the “Joint Undertaking EuroHPC” was founded, an institutionalized partnership between the European Commission, 32 participating countries and two industrial associations. The aim of EuroHPC is to create a holistic ecosystem in high-performance computing in Europe.

One of the pillars of EuroHPC is the procurement of high-performance computers in Europe. Germany intends to participate in this process for the procurement of computers of the previously unattained exascale class. The second pillar of EuroHPC is the funding of Europe-wide research projects on principles and applications for HPC; German institutions are strongly represented in these projects. The third pillar, the Europe-wide expansion of competencies, is funded by a European network of national HPC competence centers. Germany takes on a coordinating role. In the network, the computing know-how is made available on a European basis and training and further education offers for the economy in Europe are coordinated.