EuroHPC – the next step in high-performance computing

Exascale supercomputers are the next big step in high-performance computing (HPC). One exaflop means processor computing power corresponding to 1018 floating point calculations per second or one trillion calculations per second.

In other words, one exaflop computer is so fast that it would take more than 5,765 years for the Finnish population to make the same calculations that the computer can make in one second.

Such computing power is required in top research in a wide range of data-intensive and computing-intensive fields, including climate and pharmaceutical research. This type of research would be impossible without such computing resources.

Towards European exascale computer

In November 2018, there were only two European-based supercomputers in the top10 list of world's fastest computers: the supercomputer named Piz Daint in Switzerland and the SuperMUC-NG in Germany.

This means that European researchers and industries also use supercomputers located outside Europe when carrying out research requiring HPC, which may cause problems in the protection and ownership of personal data and sensitive information.

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) will pool European resources to develop top-of-the-range exascale supercomputers for processing big data, based on competitive European technology with the support of European Union. The first aim of EuroHPC is to purchase at least two pre-exascale supercomputers for Europe by the year 2020. The EU has budgeted around 1,4 billion euros for the EuroHPC JU.

The aim of EuroHPC is to develop European HPC expertise and technology so that in 2022–2023, one of the fastest exascale supercomputers of the world, based on European technology, would be purchased for Europe.

A total of 28 European countries have already signed the EuroHPC Declaration. Finland signed the declaration in June 2018, making Finland a shareholder in the undertaking.

Finland is also offering the CSC Kajaani datacenter as the location of the pre-exascale system. The decisions on the locations of the first EuroHPC supercomputers will be made during summer 2019.

Why should Finland be involved?

Finland is offering the CSC Kajaani datacenter as the location of the pre-exascale system. A consortium of nine countries: Finland, Belgium, Estonia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland, was formed to support this effort. This consortium submitted a tender to place one of the EuroHPC pre-exascale machines in CSC's datacenter in Kajaani.

If such a supercomputer was located in Finland, it would allow the development of the Kajaani datacenter into one of the world's top datacenters.

This would also enhance the importance of the planned Arctic data cable along the Northeast Passage. The cable would create a new digital bridge between Europe and Asia. Moreover, a world-class supercomputer would also attract other data infrastructures and investments to the CSC Kajaani datacenter and Finland in general.

The EuroHPC cooperation ensures the international competitiveness of Finland's research community in data and computing intensive research, and promotes the use of artificial intelligence to its full potential. World-class supercomputer resources will maintain the level of Finnish and European top research and attract more top research to Finland and Europe in general.

An effective and easy-to-use scientific computing infrastructure provides Finnish universities and the countries belonging to the consortium with a competitive advantage. With the new infrastructure, Finnish researchers would be able to access more top-class computing resources, which would have a direct positive impact on Finnish research in a broad range of computing-intensive fields. In practice, this would allow researchers to make more calculations within a shorter period of time, which would produce more accurate research results more quickly. This would make research more accurate and increase the number of scientific breakthroughs.

EuroHPC is key to promoting digitalisation in Europe. A combination of HPC and other technologies (such as big data, cloud services and artificial intelligence) is an integral part of digitalisation in Europe and Finland must also be part of this process in the future.

CSC sees that the EuroHPC cooperation is important to Finland and it is also one of the items that CSC would like to see in the 2019–2023 Government Programme of the next Finnish Government.

Competitive advantages of Kajaani

Reducing the carbon footprint is a globally critical target, to which the location of the EuroHPC machines have a huge impact, as supercomputers consume plenty of electricity. The geographical location of CSC's datacenter in Kajaani is ideal because the cold air can be used for cooling the supercomputer almost all year round (free cooling). Abundant supply of low-price and environmentally friendly hydropower also provides Kajaani with a competitive advantage.

CSC Kajaani datacenter's PUE figure 1.04 is extremely low (1.04, measured in modular air cooled cabinets in 2017) and also makes the datacenter attractive for foreign supercomputer investments when decisions on the location of the EuroHPC computers are made.

The CSC Kajaani datacenter is located in an old paper mill and it is highly scalable for large hardware installations and extensions or other potential infrastructure. The reliable and fast data communications networks of the datacenter are also designed for HPC. Moreover, Kajaani has extensive data analytics expertise and a large number of ICT companies.

The decisions on the locations of the first EuroHPC supercomputers will be made during summer 2019.

Read more:

European cooperation is clearing the way for top research

Learn more about EuroHPC and CSC datacenter in Kajaani: datacenter.csc.fi