€1bn to build European supercomputer with new low power processors

€1bn to build European supercomputer with new low power processors

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Power consumption is one of the key limiting factors for scaling supercomputers to ‘exascale’ capabilities, as a supercomputer can use as much power as a small town. The new processors will allow the systems to scale to handle larger problems.

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking is buying two world-class pre-exascale supercomputing machines and at least two mid-range supercomputing machines (capable of around 1016 calculations per second), providing and managing access to these to a wide range of public and private users starting from 2020. 

The interesting element of the R&D is the development of European supercomputing technology including the first generation of European low-power microprocessor technology, and the co-design of European exascale machines. Bull and the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre who lead the ARM-based Mont Blanc supercomputer project are leading the processor development. The project also includes ARM and acclerator chip designer Kalray and is expected to take three years. Phase 3 of the Mont Blanc project is using the ThunderX2 processor from Cavium for a supercomputer with 3000 ARM 64bit cores. 

“ThunderX2 is a server-class chip designed for high compute performance.  With the adoption of this new generation of power- and performance-efficient processors, we are entering a new and exciting dimension of the Mont-Blanc project. This already gives us a glimpse of what a European exascale-class HPC platform could be in the near future,” said Etienne Walter, coordinator of phase 3 of the Mont-Blanc project. The follow on Mont-Blanc 2020 project has already started for the technology development.

 The EU’s contribution to EuroHPC will be around €486m, matched by a similar amount from Member States and associated countries. Switzerland for example has the world’s post power efficient supercomputer (above).  Overall, around €1bn of public funding would be invested by 2020, and private members of the initiative would also add in kind contributions.

“Supercomputers are the engine to power the digital economy. It is a tough race and today the EU is lagging behind: we do not have any supercomputers in the world’s top-ten,” said Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market. “With the EuroHPC initiative we want to give European researchers and companies world-leading supercomputer capacity by 2020 – to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence and build the future’s everyday applications in areas like health, security or engineering.”

“Supercomputers are already at the core of major advancements and innovations in many areas,” said Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. “They can help us to develop personalised medicine, save energy and fight against climate change more efficiently. A better European supercomputing infrastructure holds great potential for job creation and is a key factor for the digitisation of industry and increasing the competitiveness of the European economy.”

The EuroHPC infrastructure aims to provide European industry and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a better access to supercomputers to develop innovative products.

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