EU wants Europe to be supercomputing superpower

News 15 Feb, 2012

Exascale computing looks set to get a boost in Europe as the EU plans to double its investment in HPC.

The European Commission today unveiled plans to make Europe a leading light in high-performance computing (HPC).

The EC said there had been a “relative decline in HPC use and capabilities,” but it hopes that will be reversed with a doubling of investment in supercomputing.

High Performance Computing is a crucial enabler for European industry and for more jobs in Europe.

The EU plans to increase investment in the industry from €630 million to €1.2 billion and run machines that can perform 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 tasks per second, otherwise known as exascale computing.

“High Performance Computing is a crucial enabler for European industry and for more jobs in Europe,” said Neelie Kroes, the EC’s vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda.

“It’s investments like HPC that deliver innovations improving daily life. We’ve got to invest smartly in this field because we cannot afford to leave it to our competitors.”

The EC wants to see greater use of HPC systems and services amongst industry players and SMEs.

HPC has traditionally been reserved for larger enterprises, due to the significant cost. Supercomputers can cost as much as €100 million or more just to build.

Major manufacturers do lease out usage of their HPC machines, however. Indeed, Intel told IT Pro last year that supercomputing was going to become much more mainstream in the coming years.

The EC said it would like to see “centres of excellence” established for software in scientific fields like energy, life-sciences and climate.

Andy Grant, an HPC expert at IBM, welcomed the announcement.

"It's not just good for us but good for the European economy," he told IT Pro.

"It's good that the EU is recognising importance in HPC. It's something the UK Government has been doing as well."

As for whether HPC capabilities could reach SMEs, Grant claimed there has been a lot of effort to make HPC more SME friendly.

"We can't say for certain the barrier for entry will come down but I would advise SMEs go to cloud providers and see if they can dip their feet in HPC," he added.