IBM works with French researchers on exascale computing project

Project aims to develop the first computer with the power to perform a billion billion calculations in one second.

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The French high-performance computing agency, GENCI, and IBM are working on a project to develop exascale computing.

An exascale computer is a computer capable of at least one exaflop or a billion, billion floating-point operations in one second - or a thousand times more powerful than a petabyte scale computer, the first of which was introduced in 2008.

At a computer conference last year, it was projected that the first exascale computer would become a reality by 2023.

Such a computer would transform computing by an order of magnitude. According to IBM the current the fastest systems in the world perform between ten and 33 petaflops, or ten to 33 million billion calculations per second - roughly one to three percent the speed of exascale.

"Put into context," IBM said, "if exascale computing is the equivalent of an automobile reaching 1000 miles per hour, today's fastest systems are running within a range between ten and 33 miles per hour."

The IBM/GENCI collaboration is planned to run for at least 18 months, and will focus on readying complex scientific applications for systems under development which is expected to achieve more than 100 petaflops. This would represent a "solid step forward on the path to exascale".

Working with supercomputing experts from IBM, GENCI will have access to IBM's "high performance computing technologies from the OpenPower ecosystem". The collaboration will hope to take full advantage of the impact of OpenPower-based innovations such as the connection of Nvidia GPUs accelerators to Power processors "through the high-speed Nvidia NVLink interconnect, as well as how Mellanox EDR 100Gb/s InfiniBand switches can exploit IBM's Coherent Application Processor Interface (CAPI)", said IBM.

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Riviere: "We need to anticipate the rise of high-performance computing." Photo:GENCI
"If we want to continue to address the challenges of the French scientists and engineers, we need to anticipate the rise of new high performance computing architectures that bring us closer to exascale and prepare our communities," said Catherine Riviere the CEO of GENCI.

IBM will provide technical experts to support application porting and optimisation efforts as well as organising along with GENCI education and porting sessions. This collaboration will be supported by the newly created POWER Acceleration and Design Center in Montpellier, the IBM/GENCI statement said.

Further Reading:

Obama orders creation of exascale supercomputer

Chipmaker AMD plans to super-size its processor

Linux still rules supercomputing