Queen Máxima of the Netherlands Inagurates Supercomputer for Dutch Science

September 16, 2021

Sept. 16, 2021 — A new Dutch national supercomputer, Snellius, launched today that will offer a peak performance of 14 petaflops, once it is complete. With the new supercomputer, Dutch researchers are able to tackle even more scientific challenges, for example in the field of climate change or research into COVID-19. Queen Máxima opened the supercomputer at the Amsterdam Science Park today.

Queen Máxima visits the new supercomputer. Photo: SURF

During the festive opening, climate scientist Henk Dijkstra, among others, spoke about the new possibilities that Snellius offers his research: “We can use this to answer new questions about what happens to the climate due to the increase in greenhouse gases. We can also make more detailed forecasts for the climate of the future, especially the occurrence of extremes such as heat waves and abundant precipitation. You need a supercomputer because of the size of the calculations and the amount of data involved. These kinds of calculations are impossible on a laptop.”

Most Powerful High-Performance Computing System in the Netherlands

Snellius is accessible to all Dutch scientists. The supercomputer is managed by SURF, the ICT cooperative for education and research. The system will be built up in phases in the coming years and will eventually achieve a peak performance of 14 petaflops (or 14 quadrillion calculations per second). This makes it the most powerful high-performance computing system in the Netherlands. By using the latest generation of GPUs (graphics processing units), the computer is also very useful for machine learning.

The outgoing Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, also spoke during the opening: “This national supercomputer offers the possibility to make complex calculations that give us more insight into how to tackle major issues. This essential scientific infrastructure is an enormous gain for science and the Netherlands as a knowledge country. Big compliments to SURF and the scientific community for this.”

NWO chairman Marcel Levi is also proud: “Every scientist needs computing capacity due to the digitization of all scientific fields. Low-threshold access to that computing capacity is essential for researchers in the Netherlands to continue doing top science in the future.”

Researchers’ need for computing power, data storage and processing is growing exponentially, according to Walter Lioen, Research Services manager at SURF. “The system must be suitable for all fields of science, from astronomy and climate change research to medical and social sciences. In addition, the supercomputer must be able to be expanded flexibly in the future.”

Technical Specifications

An important requirement for SURF for the new supercomputer was that it should be as energy efficient as possible. The water cooling technology used cools the system by about 90%, which means that much less air cooling with fans is required. This reduces energy consumption and increases performance at the same time.

SURF chose Lenovo to build the new national supercomputer at the end of 2020. It is built on Lenovo ThinkSystem servers with AMD EPYC processors (latest generation, 7H12, and a future generation) and the latest generation NVIDIA GPUs (A100).

The new supercomputer has been financed for 18 million euros by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (via NWO) and for 2 million euros from SURF’s own resources.

About SURF

SURF is the ICT collaboration organization for education and research in the Netherlands. Universities, colleges, vocational schools, research institutes and university medical centers work together within the SURF cooperative on ICT facilities and ICT innovations. As a result, students, lecturers, researchers and employees have access to the best ICT facilities for top research and talent development under favorable conditions. For more information, visit www.surf.nl.


Source: SURF (translated from Dutch)

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