Europe gets an Exascale Supercomputer | Popgen Tech


Borderthe world’s first exascale supercomputer—or at least the first one announced—is comingline soon for general scientific use at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Another such machine, Aurora, appears to be on its way to completion any day now at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Now Europe is coming up to speed. Through a €500 million pan-European effort, an exascale supercomputer called JUPITER (Joint Undertaking Pioneer for Innovative and Transformative Exascale Research) will be installed sometime in 2023 at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, in Germany.

Thomas Lippert, director of the Jülich Supercomputing Center, compares the addition of JUPITER, and the expansion of supercomputing infrastructure in Europe more broadly, to the construction of an astonishing new telescope. “We will solve the world much better,” he says. The European Union-backed high-performance computing arm, EuroHPC JU, is underwriting half the cost of the new exascale machine. The rest comes from German federal and state sources.

Exascale supercomputers can, by definition, exceed an exaflop—more than a quintillion floating-point operations per second. Doing so requires enormous machines. JUPITER will reside in a cavernous new building housing several shipping container-sized water-cooled enclosures. Each of these enclosures will contain a collection of cabinet-sized racks, and each rack will support many individual processing nodes.

How many nodes will there be? The numbers for JUPITER have not yet been determined, but you can get an idea from JUWELS (short for Jülich Wizard for European Leadership Science), a recently upgraded system currently ranked 12th on the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers . JUPITER will sit nearby, but in a separate building from JUWELS, which boasts more than 3,500 computing nodes.

With contracts not yet being offered at press time, scientists at the center have held firm schtum on the chip specifications for the new machine. Even so, the overall architecture is established, and outsiders can get some hints about what to expect by looking at the other strong machines at Jülich and elsewhere in Europe.

JUPITER will rely on GPU-based accelerators alongside a universal cluster module, which will contain CPUs. The planned architecture also includes high-capacity disk and flash storage, along with dedicated backup units and tape systems for archival data storage.

The JUWELS supercomputer uses Atos BullSequana X hardware, with AMD EPYC processors and Mellanox HDR InfiniBand connectivity. The most recent EuroHPC-backed supercomputer to come online, Finland-based LUMI (short for Large Unified Modern Infrastructure) uses HPE Cray hardware, AMD EPYC processors and HPE Slingshot connectors. LUMI is currently third in the world ranking. If Jupiter follows suit, it could be similar in many ways to Frontier, which hit exascale in May 2022, and also uses Cray hardware with AMD processors.

Harness Europe’s new supercomputer horsepower

“The computer industry looks at these numbers to measure progress, like a very ambitious goal: to fly to the moon,” says Christian Plessl, a computer scientist at Paderborn University, in Germany. “The hardware side is just one aspect. Another is: How do you make good use of these machines?”

Plessl teamed up with chemist Thomas Kühne to perform atomic-level simulations of both HIV and the spike protein of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Last May, the duo performed exaflop-scale calculations for their SARS simulation — involving millions of atoms vibrating on a femtosecond time scale — using quantum chemistry software running on the Perlmutter supercomputer. They exceeded an exaflop because these calculations were done at lower resolutions, of 16 and 32 bits, as opposed to the 64-bit resolution that is the current standard for counting flops.

“The computer industry looks at these numbers to measure progress, like a very ambitious goal: fly to the moon.”

Kühne is excited about JUPITER and its potential to perform even more demanding high-throughput calculations, the kind of calculations that could show how to use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for clean-energy applications. Jose M. Cela at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center says that ex-scale capabilities are essential for certain combustion simulations, for truly large-scale fluid dynamics and for planetary simulations that include entire climates.

Lippert envisions a kind of federated supercomputer, where the various European supercomputer centers will use their large machines together and distribute calculations to the appropriate supercomputers via a service center. Cela says communication speed between centers is not yet fast enough to manage it for some problems – for example, a gas turbine combustion simulation must be done within a single machine. But this approach can be useful for certain problems in the life sciences, such as in genetic and protein analysis. The EuroHPC JU’s Daniel Opalka says European enterprises will also make use of this burgeoning supercomputing infrastructure.

Even as supercomputers get faster and bigger, they have to work harder to be more energy efficient. This is especially important in Europe, which is enduring a long, expensive energy crisis.

JUPITER will draw 15 megawatts of power during operation. Plans call for it to run on clean energy. With wind turbines getting bigger and better, JUPITER’s energy needs may be met with just a few giant turbines. And with cooling water circulating between the mighty computer boxes, the resulting hot water can be used to heat homes and businesses nearby, as is being done with LUMI in Finland. This is another way in which this computing powerhouse will be adapted to the EU’s energy realities.

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