Vietnam on its way to High Performance Computing

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Thomas Ludwig


Vietnam on Its Way to High Performance Computing

In March 2007 I had the pleasure to participate in the International Workshop on Advanced Computing and Applications (ACOMP 2007) held in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon in Vietnam. Neither was it the first workshop there nor was it my first visit to Ho Chi Minh City. The workshop series started in 2001 with follow-ups in 2002, 2004, and 2005. In the years 2003 and 2006 our Vietnamese colleagues organised a conference held in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. While this conference was more focused on mathematical optimization, the Spring workshops have always concentrating on parallel and distributed computing. These conferences are a results from a cooperation between the Interdisciplinary Centre of Scientific Computing (IWR) at the University Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues in Hanoi and Saigon. For more than a decade Prof. Georg Bock at the IWR and Prof. Hoang Xuan Phu (Hanoi) and Prof. Nguyen Thanh Son (HCMC) have been the driving force behind this fruitful cooperation.

While attending the workshops in 2001 and 2002 I was impressed by the creativity and focused hard work of the researchers in Vietnam.  This year's contributions to the workshop highlight a new trend in Vietnamese computer science, i.e. its orientation of research towards Grid Computing.

Remember, it is only since 1975 that the country lives in peace after the Vietnam war. In 1986 the governing Communist Party made a shift to an open market and installed the so-called Doi Moi (renovation) politics. The country developed rapidly, making Vietnam one of the fastest growing economies world-wide. In the 1980's gifted scientists studied in foreign countries and conducted research there in order to later go back and build up their home country. Many of them went to socialist brother countries, in particular also to the former German Democratic Republic.

The faculty for computer science at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT) was established in 1986. The university itself has its foundation in the 50s however was named after Ho Chi Minh only after the end of the war. It is now the leading university in teaching and research activities of Vietnam. However, Southern HCMC University after the end of the war received a high number of teaching and management staff from the Northern Hanoi University of Technology. Remember that the communist North Vietnam won the war and the South was reunified with the North in 1976. Being German I see parallels to our academic life after the reunification of West and East Germany in 1990.

Although Hanoi University of Technology also conducts education and research in computer science, the focus on high performance computing is a speciality of the HCMC University. Having 25.000 students in total, the computer science faculty with its 1.500 students plays an important role on the campus. It embraces 7 research groups on different fields like e.g. chip design and data mining. Parallel processing and network computing is headed by Dr. Nguyen Thanh Son, who is now the Vice Rector of the University of Technology and Dr. Nam Thoai.

At the workshop they presented their work in Grid computing in five talks. This was complemented by about the same number of invited keynote talks given by speakers who play an important role in this field like Satoshi Sekiguchi, Dieter Kranzlmueller and others. Under the guidance of HCMUT and with financial support by the Vietnamese Ministery for Science and Technology, the Vietnamese researchers plan to set up a national Grid infrastructure (VN-Grid Initiative).

The EDAGrid-project at HCMUT aims at providing the necessary software components and organizational concepts. Based on the Globus Toolkit 4.x it defines a middleware for service-centric applications. As the telecommunication infrastructure of Vietnam is not yet that powerful as in other countries, the first step will be to define so-called fat Grid nodes at the major universities of Vietnam. HCMUT contributes the Supernode II cluster, which comprises 64 nodes with two processors each. The software is well-known to us: GT 4.x, PBS, LSF and others. Grid based projects at HCMUT focus on data management and on data mining. They run cooperations with researchers from e.g. civil engineering, chemistry and aerospace technology.

So Vietnam is quickly catching up with the international Grid community—and not only with this one. We are looking forward to fruitful discussions and cooperations with our Vietnamese colleagues and of course also hope to see submissions to SCPE.

Thomas Ludwig
Universität Heidelberg.

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