Finland has become a powerhouse of supercomputing
The LUMI supercomputer is located in a data centre in Kajaani, Finland.CSC
Thanks to decades of systematic work and investment, Finland's high-performance computing (HPC) ecosystem is flourishing. In addition to accelerating scientific research, HPC can be an essential tool for companies creating new innovations to support the green transition, digitalisation and economic growth, writes Minna Lappalainen, director at CSC (Finnish IT Center for Science).
The EU is developing a world-class high-performance computing (HPC) ecosystem to accelerate Europe´s competitiveness and the digital transformation of society. HPC uses parallel processing to accelerate the solving of complicated numerical problems. In essence, a problem is split into multiple simpler subtasks, each solved simultaneously using several compute cores.
The massive computing capacity of supercomputers enables advanced methods such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digital twins, which in turn help to solve global challenges in climate change, the energy crisis and healthcare. HPC is also important for industrial research and innovation. Many SMEs and big companies from various industrial sectors have already benefited from supercomputing, AI, machine learning and high-performance data analytics.
The EU's long-term strategy is to strengthen competencies in developing and utilising HPC. The world's third most powerful supercomputer, LUMI, is located in Kajaani, Finland, and serves as one of the key elements in Finnish and European HPC development.
“Finland is one of the few countries worldwide to combine a quantum computer and a supercomputer.”
Where can the superpowers of HPC be used? Many sectors, from healthcare to transport and trade, are digitalising rapidly, and quickly processing data to get actionable results is more important than ever. Besides scientific research, advanced HPC technologies play a vital role in the continued digitalisation of product design and other industrial and commercial processes.
HPC allows competitive digital business development by enabling problem-solving and data analysis that would be too time-consuming or costly with standard computers or cloud services. Supercomputers like LUMI accelerate the innovation process across product development, prototyping and testing. For example, when the computing time is decreased from three days to three hours, companies can test new ideas faster.
Examples already exist. One of them is Finnish medical imaging analysis company Disior. which was able to analyse jaw bone reconstruction approximately ten times faster than initially using supercomputing. In another Finnish case, voice interface developer Speechly improved its speech recognition model by almost 60 per cent in terms of word error rate by tapping into HPC capacity.
LUMI, with its hefty partition of graphics processing units (GPUs), is also one of the most advanced platforms for developing AI models. This is important as a company's competitiveness can be significantly improved by using AI for rapid prediction, processing and data analysis. LUMI links together computational capacity, machine learning methods (in particular deep learning), traditional large-scale simulations and big data to solve unprecedented challenges.
Finnish medical imaging analysis company Disior used supercomputing to speed up its processes.Facebook / Disior
Furthermore, Finland is one of the few countries worldwide to combine a quantum computer and a supercomputer. Jointly, they create novel opportunities for scientific computing, industrial research and innovation.
Thanks to fast communication connections, supercomputers can be used as a shared resource from anywhere. This allows focusing on the fact that the system is installed in an efficient location in terms of costs, energy consumption and the environment.
Finland is one of these places. Free cooling enabled by the northern climate, a stable electricity grid, access to 100-per cent renewable hydropower and reliable data connections make a data centre with high availability and a negative carbon footprint a reality here. For instance, LUMI's waste heat accounts for about 20 per cent of Kajaani's district heating, significantly reducing the annual carbon footprint of the city.
Green HPC syncs technology and environment successfully and contributes towards a digital, sustainable future.