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CEA, ETP4HPC and European Commission working hard together to deliver commercial exascale by 2023

The ETP4HPC Workshop that took place on June 22 at ISC'17 in Frankfurt, Germany offered us the chance to interview Jean Gonnord and Didier Juvin, both from CEA, which is the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, about the role of CEA in European HPC. Didier Juvin is Programme Director of the Simulation and HPC Programme at CEA. Simulation is at the heart of a lot of activities within CEA. First of all, it concerns Defence and Security  where a lot of simulation is done for nuclear weapons with multiphysics at large scale which is very challenging. CEA also performs simulation in the complete transverse programme for Energy, the safety of nuclear power plants. CEA is also involved in personalized medicine, in how to deliver the right drugs for your analyzed personal DNA profile, and in materials science.

Simulation is based on HPC. To meet the challenging computing requirements, CEA has three types of computers. One is used for Defence. Currently, CEA is installing a TERA 1000 machine which at the end of 2017 will have a performance of 25 Petaflops.  The second computer is used for industrial applications. CEA has to meet the computational power needs from a lot of industrial partners, such as Airbus. This is done through the CCRT, the Computational Centre for Research and Technology, where a lot of simulation is performed in different domains. The third computer is used for GENCI, the Grand Equipement National de Calcul Intensif. CEA hosts the Curie supercomputer. Next year, it will be Curie 2, a 9 Petaflops machine, for European academic research. The Curie Tier-0 supercomputer is owned by GENCI and operated in the Très Grand Centre de Calcul (TGCC) by CEA. The next challenge will be the machine for 2020-2021. CEA will have an exaflop-class machine for a lot of applications.  

Jean Gonnord is the CEO advisor in HPC at CEA. CEA has been one of the founders of ETP4HPC and Jean Gonnord is vice-president of the ETP4HPC Board. At the ETP4HPC workshop, the participants were talking about the new European Commission programme for extreme scale demonstrators. ETP4HPC has been created to be the technical support of the European Commission for its HPC strategy. For the Horizon2020 Programme, there have been two Calls up till now. The European Commission will spend between 100 and 200 million euro on HPC. The two Calls were first oriented towards developing basic technology, blocks to build the end product, which is a computer. Today, we have arrived at the third part of this programme, which is to take together all of these building blocks and to integrate them into what should be the first head of line of the first commercial supercomputer that will be competitive in the European market, designed and built with European companies.

The goal has been expressed very clearly by the European Commission in the last declaration which was made one year ago. This goal is to be able to furnish by 2022 two exascale machines. The ETP4HPC Workshop in Frankfurt, which is the outcome of a lot of seminars, was organized to prepare the goal for the demonstrator of this capacity that should be ready to demonstrate in the year 2020.

We asked how CEA's French Programme, the European Programme and the activities within ETP4HPC are interconnected.

Didier Juvin replied that CEA has been entitled by the French authority to drive the installation programme together with Atos/Bull. The objectives of this programme have been stated in 2013. Now, CEA is in the second phase that runs from 2016 to 2020. The goal of this programme is to have an exascale system and, together with Atos/Bull, have a competitive answer to the needs of the exascale programme. This programme is complementary to and completely in phase with the European activities in ETP4HPC and the plans for the extreme scale demonstrator.

Jean Gonnord confirmed that the two programmes are complementary. They both use the ideas coming out of the strategic consortium and are issued by ETP4HPC. The visible results will appear at different dates. The first demonstrator with European technology will be ready around 2020. The result will naturally be used by one of the integrators to answer the needs of the French programme in 2021. The final objective for the European Commission is to deliver two exascale machines in the 2022-2023 time frame. CEA, as one of the first founders, is participating largely with a lot of technical power inside ETP4HPC. CEA is trying to do the best for this synergy of HPC in Europe in order to get to the final goal of the European Commission which is to dispose in Europe of the capacity of delivering in the competitive market this type of machines.