by Bernard Philippe
The high perfomance comomputing consortium RAPID (Network of Centers of Resources for Industrial Parallel Applications and Scientific Development) has been created in Rennes, France. The main objective of the RAPID consortium is to promote and transfer the knowledge of high performance parallel computing to the industrial and academic community users or future users of intensive computing.
Parallel processing has clearly become a key economic and strategic issue. This is illustrated by the fact that parallel computers have attained the business market and by the increasing number of applications in need of this new technology. All prospective studies agree - by the year 2000, high performance computers will be based on parallel architectures. Currently, parallel machine technology is in a quick evolution phase, yet the simple, user-friendly interface needed to generalize their use has not yet made its appearance. One of today's difficulties is the lack of standards and tools. The market is expecting semi-automatic methods of parallelization to be able to thoroughly exploit these machines. For these reasons, many potential industrial and academic users still hesitate to invest in this technology.
To remain competitive, it is essential that the know-how be developed in Europe to be ready when this technology arrives at its maturity. This will happen in the very near future. Price and performance of hardware have reached a level where high performance parallel computing becomes profitable to industry while some years ago this concept was confined to research laboratories.
RAPID brings together French research centers specializing in parallel computing. It aims at disseminating and transfering the know-how of the matter. Our informatics and applied mathematics laboratories have been working for more than 20 years in the areas of distributed and intensive computations, and for more than 10 years on parallel high performance architectures.
The RAPID network includes computing facilities which are located in Grenoble (CEA and IMAG), in Lyon (LIP), in Paris (IPG and SEH), in Rennes (INRIA/IRISA), in Rocquencourt (INRIA), in Saclay (CEA), in Sophia (INRIA), and in Toulouse (CERFACS), The computers are accessible by the high performance electronic network RENATER. An additional list of centers will be published at a future time. Based on a simple and efficient structure, RAPID is an effort to coordinate parallelization activities in France in order to create a real synergy between research and industry.
RAPID offers to potential users:
The parallel machines available in RAPID's research centers are coupled with technical assistance to overcome first-approach problems, like code analysis and parallelization concept definition. Expertise in a large number of domains allows RAPID to also offer services varying from training courses to the porting of applications or a new project development. Active collaboration between users and founders of the network is encouraged.
Two kinds of actions can be engaged which correspond to two successive phases:
The structure and status of RAPID is defined by an agreement passed between its partners. This agreement specifies that the network is supervised by a Scientific Committee composed of representatives of each node plus externally invited experts. The network management is conducted by a management committee following the same principle. The role of this committee is to centralize demands for collaboration and respond in a short time, indicating the most appropriate center and organizing the work to be done. The offer is not limited to the centers of the contractors, but it will come from associated centers which are known to have valuable experience in parallel computing. Special emphasis is placed on conducting adequate information, marketing and training towards potential users, in particular industrial companies.
The RAPID consortium is a joint initiative of six partners: Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA), Centre Europeen de la Recherche et de la Formation Avancee en Calcul Scientifique (CERFACS), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Direction des Recherches, Etudes et Techniques (Ministry of Defense) (DRET), Ministère de l'Enseignement Superieur et de la Recherche (MESR) and INRIA.