Supercomputing was one more example of an area in which Europe was following (very) far in the wake of powers like the United States or China. The thing is changing.
TOP500. The TOP500 list brings together the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world. It is published biannually (June and November) and the classification is based on the performance that these machines achieve in the Linpack test, a benchmark specially designed for this field.
My supercomputer is more powerful than yours. Entering that list has become a demonstration of the technological capacity of giants like the United States or China, which have dominated the segment since the list was created. Entering it is a sign of prestige and progress in the country that achieves it, but the presence of European supercomputers has always been quite testimonial.
MareNostrum. In Spain, the most powerful supercomputer we have is still MareNostrum, at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. It is currently ranked 88th on the list with a performance of 6.47 PFlop/s which is a far cry from the top 10 supercomputers. It may not be the most powerful, but it is probably the most spectacular of all.
The development of MareNostrum 5 -with an investment of 151 million euros- is underway, and of course the approach is promising: its performance is expected to reach 205 Pflop/s, which would place it among the five most powerful supercomputers of the world right now.
Leonardo. It is the name of the new supercomputer installed in the CINECA data center, in Bologna (Italy). This computing beast is based on the Atos BullSequana XH2000 platform (MareNostrum 5 will use the next iteration, the XH3000), which combines nodes with four powerful NVIDIA A100 GPUs that act as so-called “accelerators” and an Intel Xeo processor of third generation and 32 cores to handle all the work. Its Linpack performance is 174.7 Pflops/s, which has allowed it to be ranked number four on the prestigious TOP500 list.
Europe already has two in the top 5. Leonardo is thus placed just behind LUMI, the supercomputer of the EuroHPC/CSC in Finland, based on AMD EPYC processors and reaching a performance of 309.1 Pflop/s. In addition, the presence of European supercomputers is encouraging. Adastra in France is in 11th place (46.1 Pflop/s), while JUWELS (Germany, 44.12 Pflop/s) is in 12th and HPC5 (Italy, 35.45) in 13th.
frontier, untouchable. The most powerful supercomputer in the world is Frontier, from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the United States. This monster has 9,472 third-generation AMD EPYC processors and 37,888 Radeon Instinct MI250X GPUs, and reaches 1,102 Pflop/s, which makes it an absolute giant in this field, and the only one that breaks the exascale barrier. Fugaku, the second-ranked Japanese supercomputer, barely manages half that (442.01 Pflop/s). Of course: not everything is rosy for Frontier, which apparently cannot work for a whole day without presenting failures.
But wait, Jupiter is coming. Europe has long been determined to be an absolute benchmark in the field of supercomputing, and is already developing Jupiter, the first European exascale supercomputer. Its cost will be 500 million euros and it will be installed in the Jülich Supercomputing Center (Germany). The goal is not only to compete head to head with Frontier, but to do so while consuming much less: its average consumption is expected to be “only” 15 MW, when Frontier consumes 21 MW.