Open course on supercomputers

Open course on supercomputers

Major scientific, technological and industrial breakthroughs require increasingly sophisticated and advanced tools. One of the most important research tools today is a supercomputer. In order to raise awareness of supercomputers and the benefits of high-performance computing, CSC and Kajaani University of Applied Sciences jointly created an open online course called Elements of Supercomputing.

Finland's large supercomputer procurements have received substantial media coverage and been prominently displayed in public. Finland's own national environment – the supercomputers Mahti and Puhti – was renewed a few years ago, and one of the world's fastest supercomputers, LUMI, funded by the CSC-led consortium and the EU, will be piloted next summer and will be generally available in the autumn. LUMI is an investment of more than 200 million euros, about a quarter of which will be paid by Finland. The amount covers the entire life cycle costs of the system.

With the new national environment, also researchers conducting academic research at research institutes became CSC's customers. One of the novelties that the LUMI supercomputer brings is the company use of CSC's computing resources. One-fifth of Finland's share of LUMI has been dedicated to companies, and funding for the use of resources can be applied for, e.g. through Business Finland. Funding programs at European level are also available. In this way, even small companies and startups will be evenly matched with international giants, at least in terms of computing resources.

The initial impetus for creating an open online course was the LUMI supercomputer project; we wanted to tell everyone what supercomputing is all about. LUMI is a very significant international research infrastructure that opens up completely new opportunities for researchers in computational science. Supercomputers are also a major investment by the Finnish government in science, research and innovations.

The course has two main target groups. We want to explain to both new and potential users, especially people working in companies' RDI activities, how high-performance computing can benefit research, product development and innovation. Another target group is high school students and early-stage university students. We want to introduce young people to supercomputers, high-performance computing and programming from the very beginning of their studies, so that they can direct themselves to related fields and learn how to use high-performance computing in their studies and future working life.

Until Mid-April, 280 students have participated in the course, of which 58 have completed the course.

The content of the course is developed by CSC's high-performance computing experts. Kajaani University of Applied Sciences was responsible for the graphic design and transferring the material to the Edukamu learning platform. KAMK's experience was also utilized in planning the scope and level of the course.

In this course, we will introduce what supercomputers are, what components and subassemblies they contain, how they are used, how efficient they are, and what opportunities they offer. We teach the basics of parallel computing and programming on which the tremendous power of supercomputers is based. The course also includes practical examples and use cases.

The course is now openly available in Finnish and English. It can be browsed or completed freely without any commitment or right to study at the university (select “guest” when registering). Kajaani University of Applied Sciences will award one 1 ECTS credit to those who have completed the tasks of the course and registered as students. You can find more information about the possibilities of using the credit on the course website. The test groups have needed about 15–30 hours to complete the course.

Check out the open Elements of Supercomputers online course in Finnish or in English.


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Tommi Kutilainen

The author has a few decades of experience in scicomm at CSC and he is especially interrested in everything.  Twitter: @TommiKutilainen

Jussi Heikonen

The author is Development Manager at CSC and works with HPC and resource management