ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer

The emerging applications of high-performance computing in social sciences require HPC facilities that take into account the strict security requirements for processing sensitive data, such as GDPR and the CBS-act. To achieve this goal and facilitate cutting-edge research, ODISSEI, CBS and SURF have developed the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer (OSSC), which is a highly secure high-performance computing facility hosted at SURF. 

The development of the platform started with a proof of concept in 2018 with only one research use case to show that the solution and the design concepts are feasible. Then OSSC team moved to a pilot phase in 2019 where it scaled the solution for three successful pilot use cases. In 2020, the team released a production-ready version of the platform (OSSC v1.0 release), and the current environment (OSSC v2.0) was successfully moved to Snellius, the most recent national supercomputer, in June 2022. 

As part of the task, SURF created a scalable secure data transfer environment to transfer privacy sensitive and large data to a supercomputer storage cluster. SURF acts as a Trusted Third Party and it will allow combining multiple sensitive datasets in a secure manner (see pilot project 2). The researcher can then perform the analysis on the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer. This environment can easily be scaled to accommodate multiple use cases and is able to handle the transfer of large amounts of data in a timely manner. After any necessary disclosure check by the data controller, the output data are released to the researcher.

OSSC Architecture
The architecture of the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer has been improved for generic use. 
In the pilot phase, the emphasis was on providing typical high-performance workloads. Nevertheless, users tend to have more diverse needs. Some require a ‘classic’ supercomputer cluster for batch-like workloads, while others simply require a ‘bigger’ workstation for interactive work. SURF will undertake consultations within the ODISSEI community and diversify and increase the accessibility of the computing facilities available via the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer in an iterative fashion through a gradually expanding set of open calls for new and increasingly diverse projects.

Future developments
The team continues working on improving the user interface and user experience. Those improvements include the integration of data-analytics tools such as RStudio and Jupyter Notebooks into the facility, and an intuitive interface to Python, R, and STATA for accessing and processing data. SURF will also ensure the further integration of storage systems so that the storage on the supercomputer cluster and HPC Cloud VMs at SURF are unified from the user perspective. Improvement in the automated reservations systems is also envisioned. Additional improvements will be identified based on users’ feedback and depending on their feasibility, implemented in the new releases of the system. 

User Support
As part of this task, SURF’s high-performance computing consultants support researchers in setting up a project in the OSSC and advise researchers on the use of the environment and the most efficient coding of their algorithms (project specific). They also offered more generic courses in High Performance Computing (once a year), to introduce the principles of HPC.

The ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer is opened-up to the ODISSEI community on 1 October 2020 and is fully operational (v 2.0) on the Snelius national computer.

Read more about using the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer and projects that use the facility. 

Project team ODISSEI Supercomputer: Michel Scheerman (SURF – Task Leader), Martijn Kruiten (SURF), Dennis Stam (SURF), Benjamin Czaja (SURF), Marco Verdiccio (SURF), Stefan Wolfsheimer (SURF), Annette Langedijk (SURF), Fatima el Messlaki (CBS), Rob van Vugt (CBS), Arash Darvishan (CBS), Kasia Karpinska (ODISSEI).

Questions regarding the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer? Contact Lucas van der Meer (ODISSEI Coordination Team).