On 23 May 2023, European and Lebanese stakeholders gathered in the Grand Sérail of Beirut – the headquarters of the Prime Minister of Lebanon – to inaugurate the computing equipment donated by CERN to the country’s academic institutes as part of the High-Performance Computing for Lebanon (HPC4L) project. The ceremony was the conclusion of a long journey whose many obstacles, on the backdrop of an economic crisis, have been overcome thanks to a staunch determination from all involved and an inspiring show of international solidarity.
The ceremony was attended by Swiss representatives and a CERN and CMS delegation. Enrica Porcari, Head of the CERN IT department, Patricia McBride, spokesperson of the CMS delegation and Martin Gastal, CERN advisor for the Middle East, each gave talks to an audience composed of Lebanese scientists and policymakers. Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Najib Mikati concluded the ceremony by saluting the remarkable efforts achieved by all involved in the HPC4L project.
The success of this project, initiated in 2016 by Martin Gastal, was made possible thanks to the unwavering commitment of the CMS collaboration, which, along with the Sharing Knowledge Foundation, launched a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of shipping the hardware, purchasing the equipment required to install it and training Lebanese technical staff at CERN. This knowledge transfer to the country's scientific community, which was organised by CMS, will ensure the smooth operation of the equipment in Lebanon.
The 144 computing servers and 24 disk servers donated by CERN as part of HPC4L have been installed in a dedicated computing centre run by a public–private consortium. This equipment will support the Lebanese academic community for all kinds of research activities, including high-energy physics. Crucially, 20% of the servers’ computing power will be dedicated to the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG), a network of computing centres in 42 countries around the world used to store and analyse data from the LHC experiments – thereby bringing Lebanon closer to the LHC community.
Since 2012, CERN has regularly donated computing equipment that no longer meets its highly specific requirements on efficiency but is still more than adequate for less exacting environments. To date, a total of 2524 servers and 150 network switches have been donated by CERN to countries and international organisations, namely Algeria, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Mexico, Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Palestine, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, Serbia, and the SESAME laboratory in Jordan. CERN strives to maximise its positive impact on society: these donations can play an important role in providing opportunities for researchers and students in their home countries, thus helping to avoid so-called ‘brain-drain’ scenarios.