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PRACE, the partnership for advanced computing in Europe, has been established to create pan-European, high-performance computing (HPC) service for research purposes. By bringing together 14 European nations, researchers across the continent will benefit from access to a supercomputing structure managed as a single European entity.

The system will be composed of 3–5 superior HPC centres, tier 0, offering computing services at the highest performance level. These will be strengthened by national and regional supercomputing centres, tier 1, which will be capable of handling the most advanced computing. Local centres, tier 2, found at university and research labs will strengthen software development.

Given the scope of the project, cooperation across borders and disciplines is needed. Necessary for the success of PRACE are the technical developments required to enable operation of a distributed supercomputing infrastructure; the scaling and optimisation of application software; and the evaluation of prototypes of future computers. By 2009 PRACE aims to have its first petaflop system, a computer capable of 1 000 trillion operations per second, operational.

The PRACE infrastructure will be supplemented by network and grid access as well as improved software and data handling. It will also use concepts and services from other EU-funded infrastructure projects such as GEANT2 and DEISA.

Germany , the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Finland, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland are all participating in the PRACE project. This project is regarded as important for the EU and as such was included on the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. Funding for the project comes, in part, from the preparatory phase of the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme.