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Herbert Hoeger, SCALAC: Trying to build access to advanced computing capabilities

Herbert Hoeger, SCALAC: Trying to build access to advanced computing capabilities

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SCALAC, the Advanced Computing Service for Latin America and the Caribbean, is an initiative that has been long-awaited by users of High Performance Computing in the region. We talk about it with one of its leaders: Herbert Hoeger , PhD in Computer Science and active promoter of the e- Science and the computational grids in the region, who from its academic position in the Universidad de Los Andes (Mérida , Venezuela) participated in GISELA, EELA and EELA-2 initiatives.

March 1, 2013 , Bucaramanga , Colombia: representatives of five latin-American National Research and Education Networks, RedCLARA and various universities and research centers of Latin America and Spain signed the Declaration of Bucaramanga, with the intention of continuing collaborating in the construction of advanced computing services and of creating an Advanced Computing Service for Latin America and the Caribbean (named SCALAC). August 28 to October 28, 2013: SCALAC gathers 10 institutions of Spain and Latin America in order to provide resources of High Performance Computing (HPC) through a call for projects, applications and developments generated by researchers across the region.

Along with the experience gained in the development of collaborative projects for the development of computational grids and e-Science, as EELA, EELA-2 and GISELA, and the observation of projects devoted to the integration of supercomputers, databases and tools of high cost employed in a distributed fashion and based on open systems (such as the U.S. Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment - XSEDE), the decision to form SCALAC was taken starting from the reflection and the collaborative work carried out by the RedCLARA Transition Team (CLARA -TT) that, created in the framework of GISELA, was searching for the sustainability of advanced computer services for Latin America.

One of the researchers that has deeply worked on the subject is Herbert Hoeger , involved from the beginning of the EELA project in the development of e- Science in Latin America, we talked with him about SCALAC.

What is your role within SCALAC?

I am collaborating on building SCALAC community, which means: motivating different data centers in Latin America to work together in order to provide an advanced computing service to the researchers of the region. These actions result in a coordination / organization of meetings, dissemination and monitoring of agreements and especially in a permanent collection of information, identifying projects and players who can join in the realization of this idea of collaboration to strengthen the capacities of our researchers .

Is SCALAC a formal group or a project that is looking to become as such?

SCALAC was officially launched in Bucaramanga, Colombia, in March 2013, with the support of RedCLARA. It is the continuation of a major effort that was built through cooperation projects with the European Commission. Among these important projects we can mention EELA (Enabling Grids for e-Science in Europe and Latin America), EELA2 (E- science grid facility for Europe and Latin America), GISELA (Grid Initiatives for e- Science virtual communities in Europe and Latin America) and now CHAIN (Co -ordination & Harmonisation of Advanced e- Infrastructures) and CHAIN REDS (Coordination & Harmonisation of Advanced e- Infrastructures for Research and Education Data Sharing). As a commitment to promote this idea, the SCALAC initiative has the backing of the academic networks of Argentina (InnovaRed), Colombia (RENATA), Costa Rica (RedCONARE), Ecuador (CEDIA) and Mexico (CUDI). Centers of Brazil (SiNaPAD) and Spain (BSC , CETA-CIEMAT and CIEMAT) are also involved in SCALAC.

What is the main objective of SCALAC?

It is the integration of a regional community of researchers and technologists who combine their skills to provide advanced computing services to the region and the rest of the world .

Groups of researchers and technologists from each country offer their time, expertise, computing resources, as well as the telecommunications network infrastructure in order to achieve this purpose.

SCALAC services are based on a virtual network of resource centers established and distributed in the region for the development of e- Science projects . Among the services that SCALAC aims to build is the access to advanced computing capabilities such as grid computing, cloud computing, scalable supercomputing architectures, remote scientific visualization, data repositories, among others.

What is the importance of SCALAC for Latin America and the Caribbean and how it relates to the experiences of EELA, EELA2 and GISELA?

SCALAC is the continuation of these projects and inherited the technical and organizational structure of GISELA. SCALAC seeks to integrate computational and human resources for researchers in Latin America to access a wider range of resources, applications and locally existing knowledge, allowing them to be more productive and to address problems of regional impact.

How will be SCALAC financed?

One of the challenges, if not the main one we have, is sustainability. On one hand there is an initial support commitment signed by five Latin American academic networks (CEDIA, CUDI, InnovaRed, RedCONARE and RENATA) and on the other, we are developing a cost study to compensate the participation of the resource centers. Though there’s a lot of initial enthusiasm, and we have the selfless voluntary participation of these supercomputing centers, we will ensure sustainability only when we build mechanisms through which the benefited researchers start covering operating costs of the service providers centers. In our region there are no regional financial institutions that can support, even partially, the start of a project like this. So we have to be very creative to ensure the sustainability of the service.

What is the importance of RedCLARA’s participation in SCALAC?

RedCLARA plays a double role. The first and most important is the one of the regional integration through a dedicated high-speed network . That is, the assurance that the services available at a computer center in Argentina, can be used by a research group in Costa Rica. This enables that grid type ubiquitous computing services can be provided by several geographically distributed centers. The second role refers to the availability of very broad bandwidths that allow to transmit large volumes of data and perform data visualization sessions remotely.

Could you please refer to the call to provide resources of High Performance Computing (HPC)?

SCALAC, with the support of computer centers BSC, CEDIA, CeNAT, CETA -CIEMAT, CIEMAT, SC3UIS and SINAPAD launched a call to provide resources for High Performance Computing to researchers within the region. During CLCAR (Latin American Conference on High Performance Computing) 2013 in San Jose, Costa Rica, it was decided that since this is the first call, it must be carried out only by invitation, so it is not an open call; the SCALAC members will look after research groups that will be invited to participate in the call with the objective of benefiting them with the resources offered and those groups will also help us to test and validate the different facilities available. The observations of these researchers will be important to make the necessary adjustments to minimize possible inconvenience in future calls.

What are the steps that SCALAC will follow within the course of its first year?

We will work in order to gain reliability, popularity and sustainability.

We must continue with the integration of resources from different institutions and ensure that the service is reliable. The service works and that there is support / support for researchers to run their flaws .

We are focusing in the massive use of the e-Infrastructure. This results in applications adapted to the integrated infrastructures and helps to foster the different Science Gateway. The Science Gateway are portals that allow researchers to access computing resources and available applications, hiding the complexities of dealing directly with the infrastructure, making the resources and applications significantly easier to use. This has the potential to attract those reluctant users to invest in learning the particular intricacies of the required resources.

We must find funds for the centers integrated in SCALAC. We must promote the participation in projects financed by local and international organizations: COLCIENCIAS, CONACYT, CONICYT, World Bank, United Nations, NSF, and calls as CyTED of those of the European Commission such as Horizon 20/20 and FRIDA, for example .