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May 17, 2011

Europe Issues Call to HPC Action

Nicole Hemsoth

A detailed report from the University of Edinburgh called “High Performance Computing: A Key Technology for Europe” emerged recently bearing the message that Europe could continue to lose ground in HPC if it did not harness it strengths and pinpoint weaknesses. The paper was backed by PlanetHPC, an EU-funded organization with the goal of “setting the R&D roadmap for high performance computing in Europe.”

The authors echo many of the arguments made by other global organizations–that the key to competitiveness in coming years hinders on HPC and more specifically, on modeling and simulation.

The authors note that “Europe has had a high profile in the global HPC arena for the last 30 years, although its position is now under threat due to competition from emerging economies and technological disruption in the ICT industry (the predicted end of Moore’s Law and the move to multi-core processors).”

To back their position about a faltering presence in global high performance computing they point to an IDC study called  “An Agenda for Strategic European Leadership in Supercomputing” that showed how European share of HPC revenue had fallen from 34.4% of the worldwide share in 2007 to 24.8% in 2009. The report indicated that the total worldwide revenue in the period had grow by roughly 25% in the this time period, thus the market itself was not to blame for any decline.

The authors claim that if these figures are correct, “Failure by Europe to increase its investment means that not only will it risk falling further behind the world leader, the USA, but worse, it may be threatened by emerging HPC powers. This statement encompasses both hardware and, crucially, HPC applications, where Europe has shown clear leadership for many years.”

To demonstrate progress, they point to successful high performance computing projects within European Union countries, including the PRACE Research Infrastructure and the Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications (DEISA).The authors content that even with strong leadership organizations such as these, “this is only part of the solution to the challenge posed by the use of HPC to deliver best of breed products and services into the global marketplace.”

In general, the authors find that HPC is at a crossroads and if Europe does not find ways to usher in an era where programming, hardware and other challenges exist, it will continue to lose ground.

On a side note, outside of the presentation of the European position on strengthening HPC commitments, the report provides an excellent overview of the challenges all countries face currently.

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