The EU Path to High Performance Computing Leadership

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With important applications in medicine and healthcare, large-scale engineering and cutting-edge manufacturing, High Performance Computing – including high volume data analytics – is a strategically important technology. The European Union has not only identified the importance of HPC for Europe’s future economic, societal and scientific progress, it aims to be at forefront of HPC with a supercomputer based on EU technology among the world top three by 2022.

At IBM we have never been more convinced about the importance of HPC and we fully support the EU’s ambitions. We have been involved in the EU Framework Programmes since their earliest days, and in that time our research collaborations with thousands of partners in European research centres, universities, and companies large and small have included many on HPC development and application. We are a founder and board member of ETP4HPC, the European Technology Platform for High Performance Computing. Amongst our HPC breakthroughs is the world’s first hot-water cooled supercomputer, co-developed by our research teams in Böblingen, Germany and Zurich, Switzerland and eventually tested and installed at the Swiss university ETH and at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre.

To discuss the future of supercomputing in Europe, we recently invited Roberto Viola, Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Connect to our research lab in Zurich. Our lab is a concentration of some of the world’s most innovative researchers in the physical and mathematical sciences and computing. It was a great opportunity to discussed our shared vision for the EU’s HPC Strategy, and how to achieve a healthy HPC ecosystem in Europe.

Roberto Viola, Director-General of the European Commission’s DG Connect, visits the IBM Research Lab in Zurich.

Rarely has there been such an exciting and challenging time for both the developers and users of HPC systems. For many years, these systems have been designed as essentially homogeneous machines – made up of thousands of identical processing units. By scaling up the number of processors and taking advantage of Moore’s Law, HPC developers were able to deliver significant performance improvements year-on-year.

But this approach will not succeed for the next generation of machines and for the problems they are expected to solve – instead we need to build heterogeneous HPC systems that have specialised accelerators for different workloads, and that take advantage of low-power and low-heat technologies. IBM researchers spoke of the need for Europe to go beyond classical HPC architectures and to incorporate emerging technologies such as neuromorphic computing and quantum computing.

To achieve the next milestones in HPC will require collaboration between many different companies, universities, research institutes and public authorities. Such collaborations require a platform on which to build. The OpenPOWER Foundation, an independent entity supported by IBM, could provide such a platform. It would allow European companies build their own IP and products, while creating a market alternative and an ecosystem for members to innovate, collaborate and drive new solutions not only in Europe but globally. Already more than 60 European organisations are members of the OpenPOWER foundation including Bull/Atos, Infineon, E4, and major supercomputing centres such as Jülich, Barcelona, GENCI, Leibnitz and Hartree.

There is renewed vigour in Europe’s drive towards HPC leadership. In March, seven European countries announced in March a joint initiative to acquire and deploy world-class high-performance computers – the EuroHPC declaration. Just as we do in the US, IBM supports EU ambitions in developing exascale technologies and providing access to the best HPC resources for industry and academia.  We also believe there is significant opportunity for the US and the EU to work together on both HPC and quantum computing. By collaborating, we can achieve our goals more quickly and surely, and realise the potential benefits for both economies.

We commend Mr. Viola for his progressive and inclusive approach – an approach that will put the EU on the best path to fulfil its HPC ambitions.

-Alessandro Curioni, IBM Fellow, Vice President, Europe and Director, IBM Research – Zurich

 

 

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