2023 at the LRZ: new technology, more services


There's much to discover 2023 at LRZ: new technologies and services start in operation. Photo: A. Podo/LRZ

The Leibniz-Rechenzentrum (LRZ) will undergo changes in 2023. And these will be visible even from the outside: over the course of the year, photovoltaic panels will be installed on the LRZ’s office buildings. As things stand now, these will provide up to 400,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, which should cover all of the data centre's electricity needs apart from the operation of the supercomputers and IT systems in the LRZ’s computing cube building. "This will enable the LRZ to significantly improve its environmental and CO2 balance," says Professor Dieter Kranzlmüller, Director of the LRZ. "We already run our computers on 100 per cent renewable energy, we cool them in an environmentally friendly way using water without antifreeze, and we also use the waste heat to air-condition the offices. In the near future, we will also produce our own electricity. However, the LRZ's plans could be slowed down by current supply problems in the technology sector. This applies not only to the planned solar installation, which is a matter of great importance to many members of our staff, but also to new computer technology.

Nevertheless, the LRZ user community can and should expect many new and improved services in 2023. "I am particularly pleased with the good results of a recent survey on the quality of service at the LRZ. It shows that users feel they are in good hands with us and they highly appreciate the fast, competent help they get when they have questions or encounter problems," says Kranzlmüller. "We would like to maintain this quality and even get better in 2023." Many of the LRZ's basic IT services will be improved, and users can expect more state-of-the-art computing and storage facilities. In addition, as part of the Inter-University IT and Information Security (HITS-IS), the LRZ is working on new protective measures such as firewalls and protection against malware in IT services and when accessing computer resources.

More security for reliable services 

• The LRZ identifier and the Identity Management Portal (IDM) form the start of optimisation process in 2023: Anyone who wants to change their password, e-mail address or other details will be directed to a better structured portal that is more intuitive to use and that offers more options.

• IT specialists are already on the road in Munich and Bavaria, expanding, accelerating and optimising the Munich Science Network (MWN). Outdated routers and switches are being replaced. The network optimisation will change IT services in the long term: for example, the LRZ is working with Bavarian universities to increase the security of the Bavarian network for students and researchers through measures such as two-factor and multi-factor authentication.

• A new online documentation platform, which will also be rolled out throughout Bavaria, is also in the pipeline and will enable teams to coordinate tasks and planning and to archive the necessary information in a clearly structured manner.

New platforms, supercomputers and data storage

It has already been the subject of announcements and investment plans: Especially in terms of IT, the LRZ 2023 has many innovations and additions in store for scientists and students. 

• The racks and components for phase 2 of the SuperMUC-NG are already eagerly awaited at Boltzmannstraße 1: for the first time, graphics processing units (GPU) will be integrated into the LRZ supercomputer, which will allow classical simulation methods and methods of artificial intelligence (AI) to be combined, thus accelerating high-performance computing (HPC).

• In addition to boosting the  SuperMUC-NG, the next high-performance cluster CoolMUC 4 is also in planning: It will also use GPUs and other accelerators in addition to a CPU.

• In the second half of 2023, terrabyte, the high-performance platform for analysing satellite data, will be launched after an initial test phase. It connects the extensive archive of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with the LRZ’s supercomputers and intelligently managed data storage of actual 50 petabytes via a 10 Gbit/s line. terrabyte was developed as part of a cooperation between the LRZ and the DLR and makes earth observation data accessible for scientific research. It will be further expanded in the course of the year.

• Brighter, sharper, nicer - the Centre for Visualisation and Virtual Reality (V2C) is currently closed to visitors. The LRZ CAVE is being upgraded to LED technology, outdated transmission technology will be renewed. In a few months' time, the V2C will be able to offer researchers an even sharper view of their research results and transport them into virtual worlds.

• High-performance data analysis with terrabyte, the LRZ Big Data and AI systems (BDAI), the new Cerebras system, plus the SuperMUC-NG and its upgrade, the Phase-2 system: all this requires more data storage. The Data Storage System (DSS) and the Data Storage Archive (DSA), which can also be used to publish datasets, are therefore being expanded and optimised. As a special treat, the LRZ will be able to offer researchers the first practical tools for managing research data in late autumn. These are based on the FAIR principles and have been developed and tested in various research projects.

• Last but not least, cloud computing is also being updated at the LRZ: Kubernetes, a software for managing software, tools and virtual technology, is moving into the LRZ cloud. By the end of the year, Kubernetes-as-a-Service, a new service offered by the LRZ, could also help IT managers of university departments and research institutes to organise their own services more easily. Scientific research is becoming more and more digital- at the same time, the exchange of and access to data online is also a major security issue, especially in medicine: Together with partners in the Bavarian DigiMed project, the LRZ has developed the technical elements and tools for a highly secure data cloud that will be set up in 2023. It will then serve as a blueprint for the sensitive data of other disciplines and as the basis for another LRZ service.

Future technology for everyday life

Quantum computing at the LRZ and its Quantum Integration Centre (QIC) have made headlines in recent years: many of the technologies envisaged there will be further specified and optimised in 2023. There are now three superconducting quantum processors or quantum processing units (QPU) have been installed in the QIC. The aim in the first half of 2023 will be to  demonstrate that QPUs can be connected to classical computer processing units (CPUs) and perform their work. Scientists will soon be testing and challenging Germany’s first quantum demonstrator with their codes, which they are already preparing today, using for example the Quantum Learning Machine (QLM) from Atos and other simulators that the LRZ has at its disposal.

• The demonstrator forms the basis for Q-Exa, the first quantum system at the LRZ, which will work in alongside the SuperMUC-NG Phase 2 system and which will be set up from around summer 2023.

• In addition to the quantum systems, a new test field was set up last year for the upcoming integration work process. The "Wolpertinger" system complements the Bavarian Energy, Architectureand Software Testbed (BEAST), because in the long term the LRZ will also research and test quantum systems based on other technologies, such as ion traps, and combine them with innovative classical HPC components to accelerate its supercomputers in the medium term.

• Wolpertinger also supports the plans for the first European quantum computer, Euro-Q-Exa, which the LRZ will build and make available to European researchers. The specifications and contracts should be ready in 2023.

• The plans for quantum computing and supercomputing at the LRZ are becoming increasingly intertwined. In addition to the developments for integrated, hybrid computing, the innovation partnership to develop the successor to the SuperMUC-NG is also picking up speed: In January 2023, the selection committee, a body of scientists, met to formulate their specific requirements for the new supercomputer. In 2023, specialists from the LRZ will work with innovation partners HPE and Lenovo to put together these requirements for innovative compute nodes, accelerators and other components, including interfaces for the QPU. It will be decided by autumn which of the two companies will build the next supercomputer with the LRZ.

New and diverse infrastructures for high-performance and supercomputers, the integration of innovative quantum systems, more possibilities and offers for data analysis: In keeping with good old tradition, the LRZ’s staff are currently also intensifying their efforts to launch new courses, workshops and internships. The aim is to challenge quantum and supercomputers in a creative way, which will require training on and with the new systems: So there will be a lot of new things to discover at the LRZ in 2023. (vs)