Interview: Michael Resch on the Hermit Super at HLRS

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A few weeks ago, Stuttgart’s Center for High Performance Computing (HLRS) held an inauguration ceremony for Hermit, the fastest supercomputer in Germany. With over 1 Petaflop of performance, this “industrial supercomputer” will be also used for health, energy, environment and mobility research.

To learn more, I caught up with Prof. Michael Resch from HLRS.

insideHPC: The stunning graphical images painted on the front of Hermit suggest that machine is all about industrial simulation. What was the thinking behind that effort?

Michael Resch: The machine has two sides. One of them shows the industry related applications the other one shows the more scientific ones. It is because of the better light on the industrial side that photographers always pick the industrial one. The thinking behind out design was to show on the outside of the machine what is going inside the machine. Given our focus on engineering applications we ended up with a lot of applications from engineering that are by nature also industrial applications.

insideHPC: Hermit is the largest civil computer in Europe. What is its primary mission?

Michael Resch: The primary mission of Hermit is to provide researchers all over Europe with access to a new platform. The system was chosen specifically with engineering applications in mind. This is where HLRS has a well established reputation in Europe.

insideHPC: Does the Hermit name have something to tell us about that mission?

Michael Resch: The name Hermit does have a history. It actually has a double meaning. First it stands for the hermit beetle which is a symbol for the environmental problems the region of Stuttgart is facing. The system will contribute to an ecological turn around in the field of energy supply and mobility and hence we gave it a name of an endangered species which can be found in the region of Stuttgart. On the other hand the name naturally suggests that our Cray XE6 is a hermit-like installation. Most of its time running in the dark but spending time on “thinking” about the most important problems in the world.

insideHPC: Proposing, procuring, and deploying a supercomputer of this scale is undoubtedly a monumental task, but does the hard work really begin now that the system is operational?

Michael Resch: That is a discussion that we always have during such procurements. The procurement is just a part of the overall hard task. We do not see operation and procurement as separate activities. These things have to go hand in hand – both for users and ourselves. The hard part that comes after the installation is the work on the user applications. We have established a Cray Center of Development at Stuttgart such that we will have a lot of support for our users.

insideHPC: As one of the premier supercomputer centers in Europe, what will HRLS be looking to accomplish at ISC’12 this year?

Michael Resch: ISC 2012 is the place for us to showcase our achievements in Europe. This year we will focus on success stories of Hermit. There are already some exciting results that will draw your attention. So make sure to join us at Hamburg.