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

January 18, 2018 //By Nick Flaherty
€1bn to build European supercomputer with new low power processors
The European Commission has unveiled plans for a €1bn project to develop a network of several supercomputers across Europe and build its own with a new generation of ultra low power processors.

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.

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