Supercomputing: Now Europe wants to be a big player too

Europe is getting serious about supercomputing, with plans to build a high-end exascale device.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Europe doesn't exactly lead the world in supercomputing power, but it's on the hunt for a system that could rival the most powerful systems in use today. 

The call comes from the European High Performance Computing (HPC) Joint Undertaking (EuroHPC JU), which has been established to "develop, deploy, extend and maintain in the union a federated, secure hyperconnected supercomputing, quantum computing, service and data infrastructure ecosystem". The EU plans to spend up to €250 million on the project, which will go on a "high-end supercomputer, with exascale capabilities, capable of a performance of at least a billion operations per second". 

The EU's undertaking says the purchase will "support the development and uptake of demand-oriented and user-driven innovative and competitive supercomputing systems based on a supply chain that will ensure components, technologies and knowledge limiting the risk of disruptions and the development of a wide range of applications optimised for these systems."

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It also hopes to extend the use of supercomputers to private users rather than just employees of industry and government. 

It will be funded by the Digital Europe Programme, which should cover up to half of the acquisition costs plus up to half of the operating costs of the supercomputers, which will be owned by EuroHPC JU.  

By 'high-end', the organization wants the supercomputer to "perform at least a Level 1 measurement quality for a Top500 submission". It also wants hardware that exceeds the performance of the world's fastest supercomputer, which is currently hosted in Japan.  

It's an ambitious project but Europe has a big job ahead. The Top500 list is dominated by supercomputers in the US, China, and Japan. China's Tianhe-2A and the US Department of Energy's IBM-based Summit supercomputer are among the pack, which is led by Japan's Fugaku with a benchmark score of 442 Petaflops per second (Pflop/s). 'Flops' refers to floating point operations per second. 

The only European supercomputer in the top 10 is the Nvidia-backed HPC5 Dell PowerEdge system at Italian energy company Eni S.p.A with a benchmark of 35.5 Pflop/s, according to Top500.  

Microsoft's Voyager-EUS2 is also among the top 10 with a score of 30.05 Pflop/s. The Top500 bases its measurements on how many million cores a computer has and its Linpack processing speed rated in Pflop/s. 

Europe wants a combination of supercomputers that delivers more than double Fugaku, demanding "at least 1 Exaflop" of performance under the Linpack benchmark. An Exaflop equals 1,000 Petaflops. 

It also demands 700 square meters of floor space for hosting the supercomputer and at least 100 Gbit/s broadband connectivity. 

So far, the EuroHPC JU has already procured seven supercomputers across Europe. The five petascale supercomputers include  Vega in Slovenia, MeluXina in Luxembourg, Discoverer in Bulgaria, Karolina in the Czech Republic, and Deucalion in Portugal, as well as  two EuroHPC pre-exascale supercomputers, which are LUMI in Finland and Leonardo in Italy. The procurement of the third EuroHPC pre-exascale supercomputer, MareNostrum5 in Spain, is also underway.

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