Bulgaria's history in high-performance computing (HPC) goes back several decades, at the time when it was the only socialist country to design and manufacture supercomputers. Today, it is one of the most ambitious European countries to invest in HPC.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is a research institution located in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was established in 2008 with the aim of promoting high-performance computing so as to bring visible and tangible improvements to peoples' lives and increase industrial competitiveness. The mission of NCSA is to bridge the scientific and industrial perspectives by providing a forum for exchange of different views. Its members are specialists from universities, the institutes of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and several software companies working in the field of supercomputing modelling and supercomputer applications.

NCSA has been a partner in PRACE since its launch in 2010. NCSA is also the only Eastern-European partner in the project DEEP–EST that is exploring pre-exascale system architectures and has the potential of becoming a prototype of the European pre-exascale machine. For the period 2009-2017 NCSA has received from the PRACE project funding amounting to 1,455 thousand euros and from national projects over 654 thousand euros in total.

The centre operates the supercomputer Avitohol which became operational at the end of 2015. It supports supercomputer applications in fields such as genomics, natural disaster prevention, weather forecasting, biomedicine, material science, drug testing, organ transplantation, molecular dynamics.

Some examples of the use of Avitohol are:

  • Identification of conserved regions in the influenza A genome, which are not altered by mutations; this can lead to the creation of a new generation of polyvalent and long-lasting recombinant vaccines and therapeutic agents.
  • Calculation on Dense mesh of Dissemination and Seismic Strength waves in a magnitude earthquake using a three-dimensional geological map of the area. The goal is to accurately assess the seismic sustainability of all buildings in cities that occupy an area of 200 square meters or more
  • Local weather forecast with high resolution in real time. On the basis the forecast, cleaning equipment was dispatched in advance in the regions of Sofia where snow was expected to accumulate in the winter of 2016. It is also used to predict the air pollution in the capital.
  • Biomedical applications. In cooperation with researchers from Austria and Switzerland, supercomputing models have been developed to support low invasive diagnostics and therapy of osteoporosis, brain aneurysms and radio frequency thermo-ablation. The necessary input information consists of 3-D images.
  • Studies related to a novel approach to the treatment of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. The availability of supercomputing modeling has produced a tenfold decrease in the volume of laboratory tests of potential drug candidates.

Background

In 1984, Bulgaria was the only former socialist country to design and begin manufacturing a supercomputer according to client’s specifications.

The most powerful of them - with ten matrix processors – became operational at the Space Research Institute in Moscow. Several dozen trajectories were calculated on it for the Vega-1 and Vega-2 spacecrafts in order to enter the tail of the Halley comet. The complex has calculated in real time both the trajectory of the Buran spacecraft as it entered the stratosphere and its transition from hypersonic to supersonic velocity. On October 12, 1987, the American magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology published the following message: "A large Soviet computer using 10 parallel CPUs connected to an IBM-compatible central machine came into operation at the Space Research Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The system has a maximum productivity of 120 MegaFLOPS. This will give the institute the opportunity to solve complex theoretical and applied problems and give it modeling capabilities. The hardware was manufactured by the Bulgarian ISOT and the software was developed by the Institute of Space Studies."