Europe Aims to Become World Leader in Supercomputing

By Michael Feldman

February 16, 2012

In what is increasingly seen as a global competition for supercomputing capability, the European Commission (EC) this week put forth a plan to double its investment in high performance computing and deploy exascale machines before the end of the decade. The plan would increase Europe’s public HPC spend from €630 million to €1.2 billion and pump a greater share of the money into development, training, and creating “new centres of excellence.”

Some of the impetus to crank up supercomputing investment by the Europeans is being driven by the globalization of the technology. That world-wide competition they face is reflected by the build-out of supercomputing infrastructure across the world. For example, three years ago, the US owned 58 percent of the fastest supercomputers, according to the TOP500 list. Today, that figure is down to 53 percent. Most of the shrinking US share was the result of the rapid growth in top supercomputers in China, which grew from 3 percent of the total nearly 15 percent over the same period.

But competition in the upper echelons of HPC is fierce, and requires continued investment. Europe’s share of the top supers has decreased dramatically since 2008, from 30.6 percent to 20.6 percent, and has already been eclipsed by Asia, which has soared to a 23.6 percent share. In the fast-moving supercomputing biz, you can’t be complacent; there are actually four fewer countries in the TOP500 club in 2011 than there were in 2008.

As it stands now, both the US and Japan each have more supercomputing capacity than all of Europe combined, and the continent’s lone top 10 system is the Bull-built supercomputer for the French Atomic Energy Authority. It certainly doesn’t have to be that way though. According to an IDC study, even though European GDP is roughly equal to that of the United States, the European Union (EU) only spends about half as much on big iron.

Those kinds of data points have compelled the European Commission to rethink its HPC spending habits, and for Neelie Kroes, the EC Vice President responsible for Europe’s Digital Agenda, to issue statements like this: “High Performance Computing is a crucial enabler for European industry and for more jobs in Europe. It’s investments like HPC that deliver innovations improving daily life. We’ve got to invest smartly in this field because we cannot afford to leave it to our competitors.”

As in the US and elsewhere, HPC is seen as a strategic technology to help solve societal issues like climate change and health care and advancing basic science in areas like particle physics and genomics. It is also seen as a means to spur businesses come up with new products and services, as well as increase productivity. As was noted by the EC report that describes its new HPC investment strategy: “At a macroeconomic level, it has been shown that returns on investment in HPC are extremely high and that the companies and countries that invest the most in HPC lead in science and economic success.”

The EC has attributed fully half of European productivity growth over the past 15 years to innovation in information and communications technologies. Not all of that is attributed to HPC, but as is noted by the same EC report, these cutting-edge technologies often make their way into the broader IT foodchain, and vice versa:

Advances in the area of HPC such as new computing technologies, software, energy efficiency, storage applications, etc. feed into the broader ICT industry and the consumer mass market, becoming available in households within five years of their introduction in high-end HPC. Conversely, advanced computing technologies developed for the consumer domain (e.g. energy efficient chips, graphic cards) are increasingly used in HPC.

The EC sees an opening here in the race to the exascale computing. Given that many of the technologies needed to support these exa-machines have yet to be developed, the playing field has been somewhat leveled, at least temporarily. In particular, these future systems will require components that are 100 times as energy efficient as those used in the current crop of supercomputers, and will need new programming models that can deal with millions of processing elements. To that end, the Europeans believe they can leverage their expertise in low-power computing, systems design, and integration.

The new EC plan is to devote about a quarter of the €1.2 billion to this type of R&D and in scaling up HPC software. An additional quarter of the funds is earmarked for training, especially in the area of parallel programming. The remaining half of the funds will be used to procure the HPC systems themselves.

That means about €600 million ($788 million) will be available to buy the machines, an amount roughly equal to the entire European HPC spend in 2009. That probably won’t bring it up to the level of the US, which spent an average of $979 million annually on supercomputers over last five years of the previous decade, but will put it in a much stronger number two position.

This is all certainly good news for PRACE, the Partnership of Advanced Computing in Europe, which is tasked to develop and manage a pan-European supercomputing infrastructure, as well as deliver HPC education and training. Its 24 member countries and the supercomputer centers they host are beholden to funding from the EU, and if the doubling of the money holds up, PRACE’s footprint should expand considerably.

The challenge for Europe is to bring the money to the table. It’s not exactly the most settled of fiscal times for the continent right now. Certainly the realization is there that HPC is an investment with a proven ROI. And since no single country in Europe is capable of keeping pace with the US (and possibly China) in this race to exascale, it makes sense for the member countries to band together. Europe may never be at the top of the heap in supercomputing, but it should certainly be among the world leaders.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurr Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia CEO Predicts AI ‘Cambrian Explosion’

May 25, 2017

The processing power and cloud access to developer tools used to train machine-learning models are making artificial intelligence ubiquitous across computing pl Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" process Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This