ALICE industry award 2021


Award photo


In a ceremony held during the ALICE week (29 Nov - 3 Dec 2021), ALICE Industry Award 2021 was awarded to AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) in recognition of the exceptional commitment to the design and production of the ALICE Online & Offline Event Processing Nodes (EPN) using AMD EPYC™ CPUs and AMD Radeon Instinct™ GPUs. The extraordinary dedication of AMD contributed to the successful installation of the ALICE EPN compute farm.




In the first microseconds after the Big Bang, our universe consisted of a plasma whose main components were quarks and gluons. These elementary particles, which today are bound in the atomic nuclei of all elements, moved freely in this primordial soup, named the quark-gluon plasma (QGP). ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) is a general-purpose detector, designed to study the primordial QGP created in high-energy collisions of lead nuclei at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. To this end, the particles produced during the transition between quark-gluon plasma and normal matter, which ultimately make up present-day matter, are measured with great precision in the ALICE detector.

More than 1900 scientists from 175 institutes from 39 countries are working together on the ALICE experiment.

The ALICE detector has more than 12 billion electronic sensor elements. Through them, up to 50.000 lead atom collisions per second, in which quark-gluon plasma is created, are registered, read out and stored. All sensors of the experiment are read out in a continuous fashion, creating a data stream of more than 3.5 Terabyte per second. After data compression by removing data entries from detector cells without particle tracks (baseline subtraction) a data stream of 600 Gigabyte per second results. This data is analyzed online in a high-performance computer farm, the Event Processing Nodes Farm. This farm implements 250 nodes each equipped with eight AMD Radeon Instinct™ GPUs and two 32-core AMD EPYC™ CPUs with 512 Gigabytes of main memory and a 100 Gigabit per second InfiniBand network interface. Most of the software which assembles individual particle detector signals to particle trajectories (event reconstruction) was adapted to work on GPUs.  Without that effort, the farm would have been prohibitively expensive.

During the installation and commissioning of the farm and the software, there was an intensive and extremely fruitful collaboration between the ALICE and AMD engineers, which allowed development and improvement of the complex reconstruction software executed on the ALICE Event Processing Nodes Farm. To date, ALICE is the only experiment that is using GPUs to such a large extent. Given the large complexity of the ALICE reconstruction software, it is now being used as one of the benchmarks at AMD to verify the performance of newer compiler releases. ALICE is in process of also transforming the analysis software which extracts the underlying physics processes from the reconstructed events to run on GPUs.

The ALICE collaboration expresses its gratitude for the strong and excellent support delivered by the AMD team, having led to the successful installation and commissioning of ALICE Event Processing Nodes Farm. The ALICE collaboration is looking forward to a fruitful long-term collaboration. In an expression of its gratitude the ALICE collaboration awards AMD with the ALICE industrial award for the outstanding AMD commitment to ALICE.



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