Brazilian education institutions and private companies have invested significantly in research and development projects over the last few years, and one of the core aspects of this strategy has been the installation of multiple supercomputers in the country. A number of applications that range from detailed seabed mapping to molecular simulation and weather forecasts require extremely powerful computers to be run efficiently. The use of these recently deployed machines is expected to aid some of Brazil’s most relevant research initiatives.
According to the latest Top500.org list of the world’s most powerful High Performance Computers, compiled in June 2015, four of the global top 500 systems are located in Brazil, the largest volume of these machines in any Latin American country. As expected for technologies of this calibre, the cost of these computer clusters has been substantial and display the will of Brazilian authorities to place the country in the strategic position of regional leader in high-performance computing power.
Santos Dumont Cluster
One of the most recently deployed HPC’s in Brazil is the Santos Dumont cluster, named after the famous Brazilian aviation pioneer, which is installed in the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LNCC) in the city of Petrópolis. The complex is part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro technology park and the system is expected to begin operations in September 2015.
Built by French company Bull following a contract signed between Brazilian and French authorities in 2013, the supercomputer is composed of three systems, Santos Dumont CPU, Santos Dumont GPU and Santos Dumont Hybrid, all of which are listed in the top 500 global systems. With a total of over 50,000 cores and processing capacity of 1,1 petaflops, the supercomputer cluster is currently the most powerful in Latin America.
According to official data, the Santos Dumont project cost a total of BRL 60 million, and was sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation through the National Science and Technology Development Fund. Some of the processing-intensive applications planned to be delegated to the Santos Dumont cluster include subsea terrain and fluid interactions simulation, which is a crucial part of Brazil’s plan to explore pre-salt oil reserves, and also weather forecasts and molecular modeling.
The cluster will take part in Sinapad, or the National High Performance Processing System, the Brazilian networks of research institutions HPC’s that allows for scientists from various fields and institutions to submit projects that involve highly complex calculations to be executed by these machines. According to the network representatives, Santos Dumont’s processing power represents 84% of the Sinapad’s total capacity.
The second most powerful supercomputer system in Brazil is located in the city of Salvador and is managed by Cimatec, the Integrated Campus of Manufacturing and Technology, owned by the Industry Federation of the State of Bahia. Known as Yemonja, after the deity of the seas of Candomblé folklore, the cluster was financed and installed in partnership with oil and gas industry player BG Brasil.
The Yemonja project, that integrates a plan for acceleration of R&D projects in the sector of geophysics, cost a total of BRL 60 million and had its components supplied by North-American company Silicon Graphics International. The cluster is comprised of Intel Xeon Cpus with a total of over 17,000 cores and is capable of processing over 400 teraflops.
The HPC’s main application is expected to be the detailed 3D mapping of seabed terrain through a technology known as Full Waveform Inversion. Cimatec managers state that the raw processing power of the supercomputer cluster will be able to reduce the costs and duration by half of these highly demanding calculations.
Other HPC Clusters in Brazil
Among the highest performing supercomputers in Brazil is Grifo 4, a cluster owned by Brazilian oil industry giant Petrobras and located inside the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The system initiated operations in 2011 with the goal of aiding in terrain rendering calculations and has a total processing power of 250 teraflops.
The sixth currently most powerful supercomputer in Brazil is Tupã, a system owned by the Brazilian National Space Research Center and delegated to processing complex weather forecast applications. In operation since 2010, the Tupã cluster has a maximum capacity of 214 teraflops in processing and is comprised of over 31 thousand cores.