SURFSURF, the National e-Infrastructure for Research

Contact details:

Prof. dr. ir. E.R. Fledderus
Postbus 2290 3500 GG UTRECHT

In every research field, there is a rapidly increasing demand for highly advanced ICT facilities, as well as the supporting scientific methods and tools to enable their use. In its 2008 Roadmap proposal to NWO, Towards a National ICT Research Infrastructure, SURF therefore proposed to create a national ICT infrastructure for research (or e-Infrastructure), providing advanced computing and networking facilities, generic services for research such as HPC cloud and bandwidth on demand, and associated user support to bridge between the science domain and the e-infra domain. Since then, SURF and its partners have made significant progress in creating the e-Infrastructure. However, demand is also increasing and there is an urgent need for additional investments in a supercomputer (capability computing), grid computing (capacity computing), and data storage.

The key elements of the established infrastructure within SURF are the high performance computer (HPC) – Cartesius, at SURFsara – and the broadband optical network – SURFnet7, at SURFnet.
• The national supercomputer Cartesius is the flagship of SURFsara’s services. It is the most comprehensive system in the field of capability computing in the Netherlands. Cartesius is especially in high demand for its combination of fast processors, an extremely fast internal network, large storage capacity and the ability to process large datasets.
o Examples of services for researchers include research capacity computing service (which could be loosely framed as ‘high performance cloud computing’), Hadoop Big Data Analytics and Visualization and Collaboration.
The models used by researchers are becoming bigger and bigger and increasingly complex, and consequently require more computer capacity. Cartesius can provide this capacity thanks to the large number of processors and their total speed. The system is ideal for large-scale experiments. Examples include simulations and modelling that not only demand a lot of computing power and memory but also a lot in terms of communication between the various processors. Another key feature of Cartesius is its fast internal network. This not only applies to the bandwidth but also to its latency, the time it takes to send a message from one node to another node.
The system runs on Linux and enables users to compute using a vast number of processors. Besides the Intel processors, Cartesius also uses GPGPUs (General Purpose Graphics Processing Units). These accelerators combine the compute power of the GPUs with that of the CPUs. Cartesius also has fat nodes, which have 32 cores and more memory (256 GB). Researchers have access to a comprehensive set of tools, compilers and libraries.
Over 200 gigabytes of disk space is available for files (home file system). We perform daily backups of these files. In addition there is 8 terabytes of temporary storage capacity. No backups are performed of these files, which are deleted after 2 weeks.
• SURFnet7 offers higher education and research institutions a fast and reliable Internet connection at 1, 10 or 100 Gigabits per second. From which all staff and students at your institution can benefit. And which interconnects the entire education and research community. IPv6 is of course supported.
Fast and secure surfing starts with SURFinternet, the connection to SURFnet's superfast SURFnet7 network. The Internet connection is always via two geographically separate optical fibre routes, thus guaranteeing high availability and quality. SURFnet7 supports a number of different connection models with various types of optical fibre interfaces and routing protocols.
A high-quality, stable Internet connection is a precondition nowadays, given the rapid developments in such fields as cloud computing, “bring your own device”, and flexible work or study. The bandwidth of a SURFinternet connection can be expanded and creates less work for your ICT department, meaning they can concentrate more on the tremendous advances being made in ICT.
o Examples of other services closely connected to the SURF-network are eduroam (worldwide access to local wifi-networks at/from education and research institutes), and SURFconext (a safe and secure access / authentication method to a variety of cloud services – including the possibility to deal transparently with privacy-sensitive data).
SURFnet7 connects up all institutions that belong to its target group:
o Research universities
o University hospitals and tertiary medical teaching hospitals (STZs)
o Universities of applied sciences
o Research institutes and comparable institutions
o Company R&D departments
o Libraries
o Secondary vocational education institutions
o Other institutions financed by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science