ICHEC unveils Ireland’s new supercomputer, Fionn – a giant of discovery

14 Nov 2013

Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock, TD, with Oscar O'Donoghue, a student from DCU CoderDojo, who named Ireland's new supercomputer Fionn. Photo by Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Ireland’s Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock, TD, and the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) have announced Ireland’s newest supercomputer, which has been given a name – and future programmers – through CoderDojo.

‘Fionn’ is a hybrid machine installed at the TSSG data centre in Waterford Institute of Technology that is capable of running many different applications and workflows. Made up of four components – thin, hybrid, fat and service nodes with more than 8,400 compute cores and 24TB of RAM – this machine will run non-stop for the next four years, and quadruple computing resources available to scientists in Ireland.

Fionn will enable researchers to solve problems faster, be they working in the area of nanomaterial discovery, medical-device development, weather forecasting, or big data. “Access to data processing power on the scale that the new supercomputer will provide is essential if Ireland is to realise its ambitions in the area of big data,” said Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of Science Foundation Ireland. “The sector is growing by 40pc annually and presents a real opportunity for Ireland to leverage the requirements of convergent industries and the capabilities of academia through partnerships that will help create high-value jobs.”

The creation of Fionn required an investment of more than €3.7m, which is supported by Government through Science Founcation Ireland plus €450,000 from industry.

A panorama of the Fionn supercomputer system

A panorama of the Fionn supercomputer system

Help from CoderDojo kids

The name comes from ‘fionnachtain’, the Irish word for discovery, and is also a nod to mythical Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill, to reflect the size of the machine and the R&D it will enable.

Oscar O’Donoghue, a student from Dublin City University (DCU) CoderDojo, chose the name, as part of a Name Our Computer competition by the ICHEC. A CoderDojo participant also won a second competition targeting primary and secondary-school students.

As Fionn is a parallel machine, it will need people with a certain skillset to operate it. ICHEC launched a coding competition to promote parallel programming among young coders and the winner was Maciej Goszczycki, a regular at the Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Science Gallery CoderDojo.

“We look forward to other CoderDojo young people also gaining insights into the world of coding for modern parallel supercomputers,” said Bill Liao, CoderDojo co-founder.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.