A supercomputer at UPPMAX. Photo: Erik Nordblad.2021-03-18
New service provides access to supercomputer
A new service launched by University IT Services (UIT) makes infrastructure for processing large amounts of data available to users throughout the University’s educational organisation.
“This service was previously only available via contacts but we are now proud and delighted to be able to offer these resources to a broader base of teachers and users within Uppsala University,” says UIT’s head of administration Christer Rindebratt.
The new service makes it possible for teachers to offer courses that require students to have access to supercomputers – i.e. extensive cloud services and powerful computer clusters with sufficient processing power, RAM and storage space – at the University’s Uppsala Multidisciplinary Centre for Advanced Computational Science (UPPMAX).
“Through the collaboration between UIT and UPPMAX, departments receive instructions and assistance to get their projects started, with access to computing capacity and storage space that teachers and students can utilise during the course,” explains Lisbet Holmberg Stark, director of UIT.
Orders for new courses and support cases are handled by the IT Service Desk, while UPPMAX helps users to install software and anything else needed to get started in their environment in the system.
Contributing to education’s basis in research
The service contributes to increasing the research basis of education, as students are provided with access to the same environments and software used by researchers, and increases support for teachers in developing course components. It also allows teachers and students to quickly and simply ask questions through the IT Service Desk.
“For UPPMAX’s part, it is positive that we can provide focused support to education,” says Elisabeth Larsson, director of UPPMAX.
The collaboration expands the already extensive range of services available to the educational organisation, such as e-learning, study administration, digital examination and support for distance learning.
Increasing the relevance of courses
“The University’s utilisation of UPPMAX resources within education increases the relevance of courses, both by promoting their basis in current research in the field of study and by providing students with direct access to an advanced, high-quality digital research environment, not least the opportunity to experiment with a real supercomputer. Hopefully, more students and teachers will now have the chance to try processing large amounts of data via the collaboration between UIT and UPPMAX,” says Peter Waites, coordinator at UIT.
A handful of the many areas in which supercomputers can be used are material modelling, genome analysis, molecular dynamics, pharmaceutical development and evolutionary biology. Thus far, in the region of 30 different courses within all three disciplinary domains have utilised UPPMAX services.
What does the future hold for the system? Is it futureproof or will it be replaced? Well, the system follows a continuous renewal process and UPPMAX has an ongoing, annually updated investment plan. Upgrades are all part of the maintenance of the system and part of the basis for the course fee.
“UPPMAX has been with us since 2003 but the largest clusters currently in use were inaugurated in 2016. Some of the hardware dates back to 2014 but the processors that perform the calculations for courses and research in subjects as AI were purchased in 2020,” says Elisabeth Larsson of UPPMAX.
UPPMAX is part of the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC), which provides computer clusters and storage systems for researchers all over Sweden.
While the IT environment is of particular interest for courses in computing-intensive subjects such as numerical analysis, computational physics, computational linguistics and bioinformatics, it can of course be used in all subjects that involve processing large amounts of data and intensive computations.