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!

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitive computing, memory-centric computing, high-speed communicat Read more…

By John Russell

US Seeks to Automate Video Analysis

January 16, 2018

U.S. military and intelligence agencies continue to look for new ways to use artificial intelligence to sift through huge amounts of video imagery in hopes of freeing analysts to identify threats and otherwise put their Read more…

By George Leopold

URISC@SC17 and the #LongestLastMile

January 11, 2018

A multinational delegation recently attended the Understanding Risk in Shared CyberEcosystems workshop, or URISC@SC17, in Denver, Colorado. URISC participants and presenters from 11 countries, including eight African nations, 12 U.S. states, Canada, India and Nepal, also attended SC17, the annual international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis that drew nearly 13,000 attendees. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The @hpcnotes Predictions for HPC in 2018

January 4, 2018

I’m not averse to making predictions about the world of High Performance Computing (and Supercomputing, Cloud, etc.) in person at conferences, meetings, causa Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Independent Hyperion Research Will Chart its Own Course

December 19, 2017

Hyperion Research, formerly the HPC research and consulting practice within IDC, has become an independent company with Earl Joseph, the long-time leader of the Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Nvidia, Partners Announce Several V100 Servers

September 27, 2017

Here come the Volta 100-based servers. Nvidia today announced an impressive line-up of servers from major partners – Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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