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GENCI to deploy new strategic plan 2019-2023: France is preparing to host an EuroHPC exascale system in 2022/2023

Genci, the French national supercomputing organisation, has published its five-year Strategic Plan 2019-2023.

Seven years after the publication of the last strategic plan, developed as part of the discussions conducted by the GENCI Associates, the GENCI Strategic Plan unveils the next major orientations of the Very Large Computing Research Infrastructure for the years to come. It highlights several issues at the heart of GENCI's concerns, notably the convergence of HPC with artificial intelligence and, more generally, aims to put the acquisition of an exascale machine at the centre within the framework of the European dynamic driven by the new EuroHPC structure. Responding to the needs of the scientific communities and researchers is the number one priority of GENCI, with the aim of guaranteeing the scientific and economic competitiveness of France at a global level.

Genci acts as the link between the French governement, the French HPC users, and the French national supercomputers. It also interacts with European initiatives including PRACE and EuroHPC. Its strategic plan focuses on the main goals for HPC in France in the next 5 years. The strategic plan also includes an evaluation of the previous five-year plan. The Strategic Plan 2019-2023 defines a number of strategic objectives. The most interesting one is the concrete plan to position France as hosting country for an EuroHPC exascale system by 2022/2023.

The field of intensive computation is indeed in strong evolution, with major technological advances, evolutions of the ecosystem and new European initiatives in which the very large research infrastructure (TGIR) GENCI is strongly implied. This 2019-2023 strategic plan is part of the activities and missions defined in the GENCI statutes of June 2016, and in line with the orientations of the national strategy for research infrastructures and reflections, conducted at the European level in the frameworks of PRACE, EXDCI and EuroHPC, as well as internal reflections conducted by the GENCI Associates.

It necessarily reflects the response given to issues perceived at a particular time and is a guide to strategic directions that can be adapted to take into account an evolving context. This strategic plan is of course intended to take into account the conclusions that will emerge from the various works in progress, notably those of the ESRI or Allistene Alliance's Computing Requirements Committee. For these reasons, it remains voluntarily as open as possible to facilitate future adaptations to very changing contexts.

For supercomputing in France, the goals of GENCI envision the convergence of HPC, Big Data and AI, as an important development. New supercomputers should be acquired with scientific performance, energy costs and total costs of ownership as main criteria. GENCI wants to encourage the current three French supercomputer centres to collaborate more closely. Keeping technological sovereignty is deemed of great importance by GENCI.

On a European scale, the Strategic Plan 2019-2023 focuses on EuroHPC or more specific on the exascale systems of EuroHPC. According to GENCI, Europe will not be the first to reach exascale. Actually, it expects China (2020), Japan (2021) and the United States (2021) will beat Europe by at least one year. However, it is very important that Europe has exascale machines of its own. GENCI outlines a plan to bring one of the first two exascale systems in Europe to France. Germany is candidate for the other exascale system.

GENCI will be investing in activities to make this exascale system a reality. This includes preparing a Hosting Consortium and to prepare to apply as Hosting Entity. One of the French supercomputer centres will be selected as "Hosting Site". The Hosting Site is not yet known but will be confirmed soon.

An operational team will be set up to prepare the EuroHPC hosting proposal. GENCI will coordinate with the "Reflection Group" that supports the French delegate in the EuroHPC Governing Board. Scientific applications will be identified that can serve as a reference for preparing the architecture of the exascale system. GENCI will also work on the financial plan for the exascale system, which will cost several hundreds of millions of euro.

GENCI will continue to support the French presence in the European HPC and AI ecosystem and coordination with the French programmes.

This strategic plan is structured in two major parts: issues on the one hand and strategic orientations on the other. An appendix contains the balance sheet of the actions planned in the strategic plan 2012-2016, completed by those, initially not planned and nevertheless undertaken, to stay in phase with the main missions of GENCI in a changing context. This analysis has, of course, guided part of this reflection.

The strategic plan 2019-2023 is available in French at the GENCI website.