EuroHPC Summit Week Highlights Europe’s Plan for Supercomputing Leadership

By Oliver Peckham

May 28, 2019

The European Union’s EuroHPC Summit Week was held last week in Poznań, Poland, hosted by the Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center (PSNC). At the event, European leaders highlighted the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking’s intended path toward exascale and, more broadly, supercomputing leadership.

Thomas Skordas, director of digital excellence and science infrastructure for the EU’s Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, used his introductory keynote to paint a bird’s-eye picture of the new European supercomputing strategy.

Skordas highlighted EuroHPC’s first initiatives – the procurement of at least two pre-exascale machines (>150 petaflops) and the procurement of a handful of petascale machines, both of which have opened and closed calls for proposals. The final proposals – which, Skordas said, should be selected within two to three weeks – are anticipated to constitute an up to fivefold increase in Europe’s supercomputing power by the end of 2020.

The JU – which will become increasingly independent of other governing mechanisms over the coming year – will make the resources it develops free of charge for publicly funded research and innovation activities, with 20% of access time available on a pay-per-use basis for industrial users.

Still, Skordas understands the need to distinguish EuroHPC from its predecessor framework. “We had a European strategy that was established in 2012,” said Skordas, referring to the Horizon 2020 framework for HPC, which the EU is phasing out in favor of EuroHPC. “So what is EuroHPC bringing on top of that?”

Three major priorities, three massive investments

Image courtesy of the European Commission.

“There are two or three fundamental differences,” Skordas continued. He outlined a three-pronged approach: establishing a joint procurement process to obtain world-class supercomputers; building an independent system supply chain based in Europe; and expanding European leadership in HPC and big data application development. In short: infrastructure, technologies, and applications.

Skordas stressed that EuroHPC’s ambitions go far beyond the installation of a few machines in the coming years. Shifting to a 10- to 15-year timescale, Skordas highlighted the aspirations of the Joint Undertaking:

(1) Digital Europe 

Skordas estimated 3 billion euro in European Union funds for the Digital Europe program, which is aimed at procuring machines and developing applications (2.7 billion euro), as well as engaging in skill development (200-300 million euro). EuroHPC is targeting matching funds from national contributions, indicating a possible total funding of 6 billion euro.

After the current pre-exascale efforts, much of this funding will go toward exascale procurement from 2021 to 2022 and exascale deployment from 2023 onward.

(2) Connecting Europe

Furthermore, EuroHPC is aiming for network infrastructure to connect the systems funded by EuroHPC (as well as other national supercomputing systems) with a pipeline operating at up to 1 Tbps. Skordas cited estimates of 300-350 million euro to implement this connectivity.

(3) Horizon Europe

Finally, Skordas highlighted the continued need for Horizon Europe’s investment in research and innovation, including research in HPC technologies and development of pilot applications for supercomputers – an additional one billion euro of investment. This, Skordas said, will include establishing three or four new Centres of Excellence (in addition to the nine existing Centres) and “Competence Centres,” which will serve as supercomputing resource hubs for each member state.

Jean-Marc Denis, EPI’s chairman of the board and Atos strategy head, presents the roadmap for development of a series of European processors. Image courtesy of the European Processor Initiative.

Crucially, it also includes the European Processor Initiative (EPI), which is aiming to produce the first European-built processor based on European technology – a first-generation processor in the ‘Rhea’ family. The EPI is set to complete development of Rhea processors, with Arm and RISC-V cores, in the next three to four years, accompanied by an accelerator. As exascale procurement and deployment begins, the EPI will also develop processors suited for exascale machines: a second-generation processor family (‘Cronos’) from 2022-2023, and a third-generation processor family beginning in 2024.

The endgame for EuroHPC

With these investments – easily totaling more than 4.5 billion euro, and likely closer to 8 billion – EuroHPC hopes to prepare for more than just petascale, pre-exascale and exascale systems. Skordas says that the new infrastructure will also adapt to post-exascale and quantum initiatives, serving as a long-term hub and enabling mechanism for European technology leadership well into the coming decades.

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