Tera 100 – the world’s most efficient supercomputer and the first in Europe to break the Petaflops barrier – is a major industrial success that highlights Bull and the CEA’s combined expertise in developing ultra high-performance, world-beating technologies.
Bull Direct catches up with two of the key players on the project:
- Jean Gonnord, Director of Computer Simulation and IT Project at CEA-DAM
- Pierre Leca, Director of the Simulation and Information Sciences Department at CEA-DAM
Europe has broken through the Petaflops barrier in Extreme Computing, thanks to Tera 100. And the latest Top500 rankings have just been published. What’s your comment?
Jean Gonnord – Tera 100 is effectively sixth in the Top 500 – just missing out on the number five slot – but that’s not the real achievement. The real achievement is that for the first time a machine of this class has been designed and developed in Europe, by a major European IT maker: Bull. It’s the result of a process that has been operating faultlessly for over a decade, driven by CEA-DAM – the Military Applications Directorate at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission – along with its industrial partner, Bull.
Pierre Leca – It’s also very important to note that over and above the performance recorded by Tera 100 and its ranking, we wanted to develop a balanced architecture; that was the most critical thing for us and it was at the heart of the joint design process carried out by our own and Bull’s R&D labs. This stability is clearly demonstrated by the efficiency levels we have achieved, which are indisputably the best in the world.
China is in the Top 5 for the first time, with two supercomputers. Any remark on this?
Pierre Leca – It’s not surprising that China has made this kind of progress. It’s the result of an approach they have been following for the past 20 years in the context of a number of five-year strategic plans aimed at re-establishing their technological independence in every sector of the IT industry, most notably from processors right through to supercomputers themselves. At the moment, the biggest Chinese supercomputers still use American processors, but from next year onwards they should be 100% Chinese, using Chinese processors.
Jean Gonnord – The Chinese have an ambitious program and it is set to continue over the long term. At the same time, though, let’s not forget that CEA-DAM and Bull have twice managed to be in virtually the same position!
So how well placed is Europe in this field?
Jean Gonnord – Up until 2005, Europe had fallen well behind, especially in comparison with the USA. It has since responded by launching a major equipment investment program for its researchers, but this has not included any room for technology development. Which is why CEA-DAM has supported its own ambitious program, along with its partner Bull, one of the results of which is Tera 100.
Pierre Leca – We can’t wait for a European initiative, so we continue our own program of investment by setting up two shared laboratories: the first with Bull, the ‘Extreme Computing Lab’, to pave the way for future-generation Exascale technologies, and the second in co-operation with Intel, the University of Versailles/St Quentin and GENCI, which is called the ‘Exascale Research Laboratory’.
So we can be optimistic when it comes to Europe, because it has expertise in everything it needs to go to the Exascale level: the processors, the software… right through to the machine integration. It just has to recognize that and put in place a program like the Chinese and the Russians are doing; and like the USA and Japan have had for half a century… Because when it comes to technologies, nothing is ever lost; there are always times of disruption, times when it’s possible to go back to the forefront. And that’s just where we find ourselves today.
Is it important to have a European manufacturer capable of designing, manufacturing and implementing these kinds of supercomputers?
Jean Gonnord – High-Performance Computing is vitally strategic not just for defense, but also for our whole economy, even for our society. Europe accounts for over 35% of the world market. So it is essential that it masters these technologies: that’s what we have just clearly demonstrated with Tera 100. Now we need to further strengthen and develop our position in this marketplace.
Tera 100: a champion of efficiency with Formula One performance.
- The world’s most efficient supercomputer
- The first European supercomputer to break the Petaflops barrier: in just one second, Tera 100 can carry out more operations than all six billion people on Earth could do in two days, if they each performed one operation a second
- Designed for round-the-clock production
- 4,370 bullx supernodes
- 140,000 Intel® Xeon® 7500 processing cores
- 300 Terabytes of central memory
- 20 Petabytes of storage capacity, equivalent to over 25 billion books
- 500 GB/sec throughput, a world record for this type of system
For more information>>> http://www.bullworld.fr/c_gRbTXb_en
For more information>>> http://www.bull.com/extreme-computing/index.html
 Petaflops (peta floating point operations) = one million billion operations a second
 Towards 2020, the next generation of supercomputers will be ‘Exa-scale’ (capable of 1018 operations a second, or a billion, billion operations a second)