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Sophie Houssiaux: a rigorous supercomputer architect

Posted on 18 September 2012 by Pierre Picard

R&D Project Director for Bull supercomputers, 47. Nominated for the Best Woman Project Manager award

She is, effectively, the Tera 100 supercomputer. When the 1 Petaflops computing giant was installed in November 2010 at Bruyères-le-Châtel (close to Paris) – for the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, the CEA – it immediately established itself as the most powerful supercomputer in Europe. The culmination of a three-year development project, led by Sophie Houssiaux at Bull.

But the engineering graduate from Supélec – who has spent her whole working life at the European IT maker – is modest. “It’s the collective achievement of a 300-strong team of engineers,” she stresses. In this type of project, delays and cost overruns are common. The issue was, precisely, to avoid that happening.

Her approach? To break the project down into 30 milestones, and set up a painstaking system to monitor each one of them. The results are there for all to see. But for the mother of three – who enjoys roller-skating in Versailles, where she lives – the journey has not always been a bed of roses. “We’ve had to anticipate problems and find solutions to them in time, working closely with our partners, the CEA.”

Her project management experience, especially with servers, has helped her. As has her dual expertise in both the hardware and software aspects. Tera 100 has acted a springboard for Bull to attract other customers and win further contracts for its supercomputers.

This article was originally published in ‘l’Usine Nouvelle’ on 7 September 2012 and on the weekly business magazine’s Web site >>>

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