An influx of new supercomputing capabilities are appearing throughout Europe due to the nearly 100 million Euro funding push from the Horizons 2020 program, an EU framework to support large-scale and exascale computing efforts.
While several of the nations that have traditionally been strong players in supercomputing, including France, the UK, and Germany have benefitted from the program, others that have been on the historical fringes of large-scale supercomputing, including more recently, the Czech Republic, are finding their HPC footing.
A major part of the Horizon 2020 program paradigm is to support both academic research and European industry, something that will be welcome in the Czech Republic’s manufacturing sector in particular. The auto industry is strong and the addition of having access to a top 50 (and #14 ranked in Europe) supercomputer will add to the modeling and simulation capabilities of that sector, Martin Palkovic, managing director of IT4Innovations, tells The Next Platform. The relatively new and only national supercomputing site in the Czech Republic is already home to a smaller HPC system, which was installed at the same time the center opened its doors almost four years ago—and is now set to be a fresh source of new application-specific research since it is also one of Intel’s 56 Parallel Computing Centers.
Palkovic says that the RFP that was submitted listed specific benchmark requirements for a range of applications and the SGI ICE X system was a clear winner. While he says that they worked with GPUs previously on their first supercomputer, the fact that they are an Intel Parallel Computing Center meant that their accelerator of choice for this round was the Xeon Phi. The nearly 2 petaflop-capable machine is outfitted with almost 24,192 Xeon E5 2680 CPU cores and an additional 52,704 eon Phi cores with 13.8 terabytes of RAM and a 2 petabyte disk array with a tape library capable of holding onto three petabytes. Palkovic says that they plan to upgrade the system every four years, which one can assume will mean a boost to the latest generation Knights Landing or, if it is ready in time, Knights Hill processors due in 2018.
These specs make the Czech Republic’s new “Salomon” SGI ICE X machine the largest Xeon Phi installation in Europe. SGI counts a few other large supercomputer wins for its ICE X line of supercomputers, including its largest public machine, the Pangea supercomputer, which powers oil and gas discovery for French energy giant, Total. While the French system is not accelerated, it is one of the largest known ICE X installs. SGI has had considerable success with the line with 29 machines on the Top 500 (seven of which are in Europe, including the newest Czech system). Considering that height of the SGI Altix era (2012) yielded only 16 machines on the Top 500 list, it is fair to say SGI is gaining traction outside of its native U.S. and moving farther into Europe (as well as holding down a few systems in Japan).
As data volume and complexity continues to mount for HPC applications, SGI’s position with the ICE X machines is a strong one and well matched with competitive systems, including the Cray XC40, which has also become a popular option in Europe lately, particularly with large weather modeling centers. The unique element is the distributed memory approach and emphasis on petascale-class problems. The standard SGI ICE X is capable of around 190 teraflops per rack and the architecture is designed to be scalable.
This marks a welcome addition to the Czech economy, Palkovic says, and will also benefit the research community since until now, the national research network was more a collection of storage and data movement tools versus a true HPC hub. “With the launch of the Salomon supercomputer, the 14th most powerful in Europe, the Czech Republic now ranks among the supercomputing elite. The scientific community in the Czech Republic gained a premium scientific tool and I believe that in the medium and long term it will benefit not only the research community but also the industry and the Czech economy,”