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Swiss National Supercomputing Centre

The Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (Italian: Centro Svizzero di Calcolo Scientifico; CSCS) is the national high-performance computing centre of Switzerland. It was founded in Manno, canton Ticino, in 1991.[1] In March 2012, the CSCS moved to its new location in Lugano-Cornaredo.[2]

Swiss National Supercomputing Centre CSCS
CSCS Logo.tiff
Established1991; 28 years ago (1991)
Budget24.3 million CHF
DirectorThomas Schulthess
LocationLugano, Ticino, Switzerland
Operating agency
ETH Zurich

The main function of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre is a so-called National User Lab. It is open to all Swiss researchers and their assistants, who can get free access to CSCS' supercomputers in a competitive scientific evaluation process. In addition, the centre operates dedicated computing facilities for specific research projects and national mandates, e.g. weather forecasting. It is the national competence centre for high-performance computing and serves as a technology platform for Swiss research in computational science.[3] CSCS is an autonomous unit of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and closely collaborates with the local University of Lugano (USI).


The office building of the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, with part of the computing building on the left edge of the photo.

The building at the new location Lugano-Cornaredo has a pillar-free machine hall of 2000 m² and can be powered with up to 20 MW electricity. Water for cooling the supercomputers is taken from Lake Lugano in 45m depth and pumped over a distance of 2.8 km to the centre. Thus, little energy is consumed for providing the cooling and the computer centre achieves a high energy efficiency with a PUE < 1.25.[4]


Supercomputer procurements at CSCS can be categorised into two phases: In the first phase from 1991 to 2011, the centre focused on proven technologies in order to facilitate user access to its services. This strategy was centred on the SX vector processor architecture of NEC.[5] The IBM SP4, installed 2002, was the first production system of CSCS with a massively-parallel computer architecture.[6] The procurement of the first Cray XT3 in Europe in 2005[7] marked the beginning of the second phase. Since then, CSCS concentrates on early technologies, preferably before they become a generally available product.[8][9][10]

Current computing facilitiesEdit

Name Model Processor type No. of processors Start of operation (last upgrade) Peak performance (FLOPS) Use
Piz Daint Hybrid Cray XC40/XC50 Intel Haswell-EP + Nvidia Tesla P100 GPUs 206,720 cores November 2016 15.988 petaflops Research (computer simulations)
Kesch and Es-cha Cray CS-Storm Intel Haswell-EP + Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs 2015 Numerical weather prediction (MeteoSwiss)
Mönch NEC cluster
Monte Leone HP DL 360 Gen 9
Phoenix Computer cluster (various manufacturers) Intel Sandy Bridge 2.6 GHz and AMD Opteron 16-core Interlagos 2.1 GHz 82 (736 cores) October 2007 (May 2012) 13.32 teraflops Computing grid of the CERN LHC

Previous computing facilitiesEdit

Mame Model Processor type No. of processors Period of operation Peak performance (TFLOPS) Use
Piz Daint Hybrid Cray XC30 Intel Sandy Bridge 2.6 GHz + NVIDIA Tesla K20X GPUs 5,272 (42,176 cores; 84,352 hardware threads + 1 GPU x node) November 2013 7,787 Research (computer simulations)
Blue Brain 4 IBM Blue Gene/Q Power BQC 16C 1.6GHz 65,536 cores 2013–2018 838.9 Blue Brain Project
Piz Daint Cray XC30 Intel Sandy Bridge 2.6 GHz 4,512 (36,096 cores; 72,192 hardware threads) December 2012 750.7 Research (computer simulations)
Monte Lema Cray XE6 AMD Opteron 12-core Magny-Cours 2.1 GHz 336 (4,032 cores) April 2012 33.87 Numerical weather prediction (MeteoSwiss)
Albis Cray XE6 AMD Opteron 12-core Magny-Cours 2.1 GHz 144 (1,728 cores) April 2012 14.52 Numerical weather prediction (MeteoSwiss)
Tödi Cray XK7 AMD Opteron 16-core Interlagos 2.1 GHz and Nvidia Tesla K20x GPU 272 (4,352 cores) + 272 GPUs October 2011 (October 2012) 393.00 Research (computer simulations)
Matterhorn Cray XMT Next Generation Cray Threadstorm 64 (8,192 hardware threads) June 2011 n/a Research (in particular analysis of unstructured data)
Monte Rosa Cray XE6 AMD Opteron 16-core Interlagos 2.1 GHz 2,992 (47,872 cores) May 2009 (November 2011) 402.12 Research (computer simulations)
La Dôle Cray XT4 AMD Opteron quad-core Barcelona 2.3 GHz 160 (640 cores) May 2007–June 2012 5.88 Numerical weather prediction (MeteoSwiss)
Piz Buin Cray XT4 AMD Opteron quad-core Barcelona 2.3 GHz 264 (1,056 cores) May 2007–June 2012 9.71 Numerical weather prediction (MeteoSwiss)
Mont Blanc IBM System p575 IBM POWER5, 1.5 GHz 768 October 2006–January 2010 4.6 Research (computer simulations)
Piz Palü Cray XT3 AMD Opteron dual-core 2.6 GHz 1,664 (3,328 cores) June 2005–April 2009 17.31 Research (computer simulations)
Venus IBM System p690 IBM POWER4, 1.3 GHz 256 2002–2006 1.33 Research (computer simulations)
Prometeo NEC SX-5 NEC SX-5 vector processor 16 1999–2007 0.128 Research (computer simulations) and numerical weather prediction (MeteoSwiss)
Gottardo NEC SX-4 NEC SX-4 vector processor 16 1995–2004 0.032 Research (computer simulations)
Adula NEC SX-3 NEC SX-3 vector processor 2 1992–1995 0.0128 Research (computer simulations)

National Supercomputing ServiceEdit

Run as a user lab, CSCS promotes and encourages top-notch research. Simulations created on supercomputers yield completely new insights in science. Consequently, CSCS operates cutting-edge computer systems as an essential service facility for Swiss researchers. These computers aid scientists with diverse issues and requirements - from the pure calculation of complex problems to analysis of complex data. The pool of national high-performance computers is available to its users as a so-called user lab: all researchers in and out of Switzerland can use the supercomputer infrastructure.

Dedicated HPC ServicesEdit

In addition to the computers of the User Lab, CSCS operates dedicated compute resources for strategic research projects and tasks of national interest. Since 2001, the calculations for the numerical weather prediction of the Swiss meteorological survey MeteoSwiss take place at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre. In January 2008, the first operational high-resolution weather forecasting suite in Europe was taken in production on a massively-parallel supercomputer at CSCS.[11] Another dedicated computer resource operated by CSCS is the Swiss tier-2 computer cluster for the Computing Grid of the CERN LHC accelerator.

CSCS also provides storage services for massive data sets of the Swiss systems biology initiative SystemsX and the Centre for Climate Systems Modelling C2SM at ETH Zurich.

Research and developmentEdit

For supporting the further development of its supercomputing services, CSCS regularly evaluates relevant new technologies (technology scouting) and publishes the results as white papers on its website.

In 2009, CSCS and the University of Lugano jointly launched the platform HP2C with the goal to prepare the application codes of Swiss researchers for upcoming supercomputer architectures.[12]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ ETH History: Swiss Scientific Computing Center, Manno (CSCS). Last accessed 13 August 2012
  2. ^ CSCS moves into new computer centre in Lugano. CSCS news of 12 March 2012. Last accessed 9 August 2012
  3. ^ Factsheet: CSCS - driving innovation in computational research in Switzerland. Last accessed 9 August 2012
  4. ^ Factsheet: Innovative new building for CSCS in Lugano. Last accessed 9 August 2012
  5. ^ Swiss Supercomputing Centre delivers scientific excellence on NEC SX-5. Interview 20 July 2000. Last access 13 August 2012
  6. ^ IBM selected to build Switzerland's largest supercomputer. Press release of 26 February 2002. Last accessed 13 August 2012
  7. ^ Red Storm Over Switzerland: CSCS Will Be First in Europe to Make New Cray XT3 System Available for Science. Press release of 5 April 2005. Last accessed 13 August 2012
  8. ^ First Cray XE6 Supercomputer installed at CSCS. CSCS news of 28 July 2010. Last accessed 13 August 2012
  9. ^ Swiss National Supercomputing Centre Orders First Next-Generation Cray XMT Supercomputer. Press release of 28 February 2011. Last accessed 13 August 2012
  10. ^ AMD Ships First "Bulldozer" Processors to CSCS and other High End Installations. HPC-CH blog entry of 9 September 2011. Last accessed 13 August 2012
  11. ^ New Supercomputer "Buin" inaugurated at the CSCS - Quantum leap in weather forecasting. Press release of 17 September 2007. Last accessed 13 August 2012.
  12. ^ Factsheet: Supercomputing - a key to greater competitiveness. Information of ETH Board. Last accessed 13 August 2012.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit