The Maison de la Simulation inaugurates an ultra-high resolution wall
© D.Touzeau/CEA, 2014
The Maison de la Simulationis a laboratory set up in 2011 at the Saclay site. In September, it will start to use a visualisation wall acquired as part of the Digiscope project. The wall will be inaugurated on 15 September and early November in the presence of Dr Mandelbrot, the son of the man who "invented" fractals.
With the development of High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructures, both in France (GENCI) and at European level (PRACE), researchers now have access to world-class supercomputers. Such supercomputers should not only make possible major breakthroughs in various scientific domains, but also boost industrial competitiveness.
Achieving these objectives implies a need for tools designed and optimised to provide very high level parallel computing. Moreover, interpreting the huge amount of data resulting from large simulations requires suitable post-processing and visualisation tools. The complexity of Peta-scale system architectures and those of physical simulation systems represents a real challenge. Tackling this challenge requires building multidisciplinary teams that include computer scientists specialising in HPC and numerical analysis as well as experts in the targeted scientific fields.
To house such teams, Inria, the CEA, CNRS and the Universities of Paris-Sud and Versailles-St Quentin have set up the Maison de la Simulation, a joint service and research laboratory.
The laboratory has four key objectives:
- promote the emergence of a High Performance Computing community in France;
- promote the efficient use of computing infrastructures by French researchers;
- train users and adapt software for future hardware;
- develop dynamic synergies between engineers and researchers from different disciplines. These initiatives are targeted at current users of existing supercomputer centres, as well as people planning to use them for their research.
The Maison de la Simulation is housed at two sites: the offices, a training room, and its Digiscope visualisation wall are located in the Digiteo Labs building, near the CEA Saclay site, while its computing cluster and other offices are located a few kilometres away, at IDRIS (CNRS), on the Plateau du Moulon.
Digiteo Based at DigiteoSaclay as part of the Digiscope project, the Maison de la Simulation's visualisation wall provides the scientific community with ultra-high resolution of 33 million pixels - D.Touzeau/CEA, 2014 - D.Touzeau/CEA, 2014
The visualisation wall in figures
The Maison de la Simulation's visualisation wall is housed in the Digitéo/Saclay building. It was selected after lengthy analysis of the different technologies available, carried out within the framework of the Digiscope technical group.
The wall consists of 16 (4x4) Barco OLS521 cubes. These cubes give stereoscopic display and have extremely thin edges (less than 0.8mm). The wall has a total resolution of 33 million pixels, making it one of the highest-resolution walls available to the scientific community. Barco also supplied the video control system. The wall is connected to a computing cluster to process large volumes of data. This cluster includes a master node consisting of 64 computer cores, 2Tb of memory and an Nvidia K5000 graphics card, together with four rendering nodes, each with 128 Gb of memory, 12 cores and a K5000 card.
This equipment is entirely operated by the Maison de la Simulation but it is a unique data-analysis platform accessible by the entire scientific community. in the near future, a telepresence system will make it possible to link the visualisation wall at the Maison de la Simulation to other visualisation platforms involved in Digiscope, with a view to developing remote collaborative working methods.
The Maison de la Simulation has 4 part-time research lecturers, 8 engineers and researchers and 19 PhD and post-doctoral researchers. The laboratory is one of six "PRACE Advanced Training Centres" (PATC) in Europe. It is involved in the ‘Digiscope’ and ‘Equip@meso’ teams.
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La Maison de la Simulation
The French National Supercomputing Facility, is a non-trading company that is 49% owned by the state (represented by the Ministry of Research and Higher Learning), 20% by the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), 20% by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), 10% by universities and 1% by Inria.
Born out of the political will to place France at the European and international forefront of supercomputing, and benefiting from the combined efforts of the leading players in academic research and the support of the authorities, GENCI has been striving to achieve three key missions since its creation in 2007:
- Implement and coordinate key equipment at the French civilian research centres that it finances and owns.
- Promote the organisation of a European supercomputing space and participate in its achievements. In this field, GENCI represents France in the permanent research infrastructure PRACE.
- Promote simulation and supercomputing among players in fundamental and industrial research.