Competitive advantage in research ecosystems

A modern research environment for research and RDI activities is a key tool for competitiveness and productivity. World-class supercomputers enable the efficient processing of large data sets and the utilization of artificial intelligence and quantum technology, thus opening new doors to research.

CSC's data management and computing environments and their attendant expert services make Finland a larger cluster of computational science competence and enable top-class research in Finland and Europe.

The international projects and infrastructures in which CSC is involved serve as one of the channels for the internationalization of Finnish research and higher education institutions.

In 2020, the development of CSC's research environments progressed as planned, and their use was increased with national and international cooperation and expansion of the user base. The final part of the data management and computing environment (DL2021), i.e. the Mahti supercomputer, was launched and CSC is coordinating or involved in eight infrastructures selected for the roadmap for Finnish research infrastructures.

High marks for CSC's research infrastructure

In evaluating the Academy of Finland’s national research infrastructures (FIRI), CSC's research infrastructure for data management, computing and telecommunications was assessed to be of a very high standard (6/6).

Also included in the FIRI roadmap were the EuroHPC/PRACE infrastructure (6/6) and Finnish Quantum Computing Infrastructure (FiQCI) (6/6), both of which received full marks, as well as the bioinformatics infrastructure of the ELIXIR Finland Node (5/6), in which CSC was heavily involved. Other roadmap infrastructures in which CSC is involved are the decentralized Finnish Computing Competence Infrastructure (FCCI), the research infrastructure for the humanities (FIN-CLARIAH), a research infrastructure consortium focusing on chemical biology (EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC), and the European plate observing system (FIN-EPOS), which maintains solid-earth observatories and laboratories and provides data to international data centers and on to the EPOS data center.

LUMI supercomputer is more efficient than anticipated

Led by Finland, the LUMI consortium is responsible for hosting one of three world-class supercomputers organized by the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU) as a joint procurement. During its service life (2021-2026), the LUMI supercomputer will be one of the most well-known scientific computing instruments in the world. The LUMI computing environment will be available to researchers beginning at the end of 2021.

The EuroHPC LUMI consortium’s equipment procurement project exceeded expectations. As a result of the competitive bidding led by CSC, a supercomputer that is 2.5 times more efficient than anticipated will be available for use in top European research. The procurement went according to schedule and the results were announced at an international press conference on 21 October 2020. The LUMI supercomputer in Kajaani has a peak performance of 552 Petaflops. Construction on the Kajaani Data Centre for the LUMI supercomputer also stayed on schedule and on budget all the way up to the installation phase of the equipment, despite the global pandemic. Watch the video: Construction of the LUMI data center. 

The LUMI user program started in the first quarter of the year, with ten roadshow events in different parts of Finland. Users also cooperated through webinars, a survey (approximately 200 respondents) and bilateral discussions with research groups. The aim of the user program is to ensure the smooth transition of researchers in becoming LUMI users. In addition, members of the LUMI consortium held roadshow events throughout Europe.

The national LUMI resource allocation was prepared and its finalization continued into 2021, taking into account the policies outlined in the EuroHPC Access Policy document and the EuroHPC JU in December 2020. At the same time, the activation of business cooperation with regard to the use of the LUMI and DL2021 environment as well as utilization of LUMI consortium cooperation for the benefit of Finnish research will continue.
 

Mahti supercomputer opened for production

The national Development program for data management and scientific computing (DL2021) supports the research and teaching activities of universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes as well as national innovation activities, while ensuring the international competitiveness of the Finnish research community in data-centered and computational research fields. In 2020, the project progressed to the deployment of supercomputer Mahti on 26 August 2020. Watch the video: DL2021 Data management and computing research environment.

Mahti's deployment was delayed for three months due to delivery challenges and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions affecting installation. 22 projects from different disciplines participated in the Mahti pilot project, and the utilization rate for the pilot period was as high as 99%. Feedback on the pilot projects was very positive. In the CSC data management and computing services user survey, the NPS for users of the DL2021 environment was 76. Mahti brought improvements to the energy efficiency of CSC.


COVID-19 fast track opened to researcher

Like many other organizations, CSC wanted to do its part in the fight against COVID-19 and opened a fast track for projects researching this disease. The processing of applications for resources for such projects has been expedited and the computing queue has been prioritized. A total of 15 research projects were selected for the COVID-19 fast track. These projects have studied the airborne spread of the virus, sought ways to prevent reproduction of the virus, explored potential drug therapies through virtual screening, studied virus mutations and identified virus variants through sequencing. The studies produced several peer-reviewed articles as well as plenty of new information on the airborne spread of the virus and droplet infections. Researchers have played a major role in managing the pandemic by helping health authorities to identify more sensitive virus variants through sequencing and considering recommendations for masking and indoor ventilation.

Based on a proposal made by CSC, PRACE also opened a prioritized computing channel for COVID-19 research. The results were taken into account in the G7 Declaration.
 

The number of users in research institutes and universities of applied sciences increased significantly

Research institutes have discovered CSC's services extensively, both as users and customers of new initiatives, through the national data management and computing development program. In data management and computing services, the number of users in research institutes and universities of applied sciences increased significantly in 2020.

 

The largest number of active research projects were carried out in CSC's server environments in the fields of life science (312), computer and information science (225) and technology (218). In particular, the research fields of physics (24.1%), life sciences (16.5%) and medicine and health sciences (10.5%) led the statistics in the use of computer resources.

The largest users of cPouta cloud resources were space science and astronomy (18.8%) as well as computer and information science (13.8%), while the largest use of ePouta was in biomedical (42.6%) and cancer disease (19.1%) research.

 

 


The research and teaching services available
through CSC are suitable for all fields of science and they support higher education. Support is provided at all stages of the research process. The CSC Resource Allocation Group grants the computing and storage resources sought by customers. CSC does not assess the scientific quality of applications directly, but requires the technical functionality of the methods presented in the applications as well as that the resources allocated are used to produce scientific publications. In addition, resources must be used responsibly for the needs of either research or teaching. The Resource Allocation Group monitors national science policy and observes the priorities defined by the Finnish science administration. Computing resources are primarily allocated to national research. Once a year, the resources allocated are reported to the CSC Board and the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Applications for Grand Challenge research projects requiring significant computing or storage resources and applications for international high-performance computing resources are evaluated by the Scientific Customer Panel, which consists of leaders of Finnish research groups from different fields of science.

 

 


The accessibility of the computing and data management environment was good or excellent during 2020.

In 2020, the Puhti supercomputer had the highest utilization rate: 84.96% (2019: 85.13%). Similarly, its GPU-accelerated Puhti-AI node significantly improved its utilization rate to the current 77.36% (2019: 59.49%). In August, the total utilization rate of the Mahti supercomputer, which was opened for customer use in the autumn of 2020, was 61.40%. Mahti's deployment increased the total computing capacity by several times.

On 5 July 2020, the Taito server was retired. Its utilization rate was 74.50% at the beginning of the year (2019: 88.43%). This decrease was expected because the usage of Taito was ramped down during 2020, and new users or projects were no longer accepted for it.  The availability rate of the Mahti service was 94.25%, and the availability of all other computing servers was over 99%.

 

In Espoo, the utilization rate of the Pohja data center increased by about 28% after the multi-year consolidation project was completed in the first half of 2020, covering more than 700 devices.

The most significant deviation in quality occurred in November-December 2020, with two unplanned interruptions in service of the Allas data management system in the DL2021 environment.  Allas experienced two faults caused by serious software errors. Data was not lost, but the service was interrupted twice. Users were actively informed when a fault occurred and as repairs progressed. The Allas storage system and its maintenance practices will be developed to prevent similar disruptions.
 

Funet 2020 lifecycle update progressed on schedule

Funet, a fast and reliable information network for Finnish higher education institutions, research and teaching, covers all Finnish higher education institutions regardless of the administrative sector, and serves over 375,000 end users throughout Finland.

The lifecycle update of the Funet (Finnish University and Research Network) (Funet 2020) made progress on its schedule for Northern Finland, despite the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new network is highly fault tolerant: Fiber-breaks and similar faults decreased by 75% since 2019. Funet services achieved their best result in the customer satisfaction survey, which is conducted every two years, with its Net Promoter Score (NPS) rising to 76 (2016: 64, 2014: 68).
 

CSC research and RDI cooperation expanded

Development cooperation between artificial intelligence and data analytics services expanded nationally and internationally.

The prerequisites for new types of partnerships between state actors, research organizations and companies were developed to utilize AI platforms. A project to develop the Kajaani data centre ecosystem was launched together with the City of Kajaani and the Regional Council of Kainuu. The aim of the project is to find research actors in connection with the LUMI supercomputer and to increase the high-performance computing business in the Kainuu region. At the same time, a decision was made to establish the AIKA - Arctic Data Intelligence and Supercomputing Ecosystem in Kainuu, which will be launched in early 2021. The CSC data center ecosystem project supports the AIKA work in the Kainuu region.

Cooperation with CSC, Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) and NVIDIA enjoyed continued success in the form of the NVAITC program. The program supports research projects that require in-depth expertise in artificial intelligence. Five projects were supported in 2020 and new projects are currently being prepared.

CSC entered talks with the AI for Europe (AI4EU) consortium on high-performance computing cooperation. The aim of the AI4EU project is to build, with the support of the European Commission, a European AI cloud platform that can better distribute and utilize AI data sets.

The national EuroHPC Competence Center EuroCC Finland was launched on 1 September 2020. LUMI Project Director Pekka Manninen of CSC was elected to the Advisory Board for the Castiel project. The project coordinates the activities of EuroCC Competence Centers, which promote business cooperation in different countries.

In December 2020, CSC joined a consortium led by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which established Finland's GAIA-X Hub. Led by France and Germany, the GAIA-X project is developing a European cloud environment for businesses. The project is a significant new initiative in the reliable sharing of distributed data. CSC was invited to participate in GAIA-X cooperation due to its strong expertise in authentication solutions, and is responsible for the architecture planning of identity and access management in the project.

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