The European HPC Strategy – Regional Vision and Strategy

I have been invited to deliver a presentation on the European HPC strategy at the Big Data and Extreme-scale computing in Barcelona on January 29, 2015. I am very grateful to the organisers for the opportunity, in particular because of the global nature of the event and the high level international representation. This post summarises the main elements of my presentation.

Why Europe needs a HPC strategy?

The short answer to this question is: HPC helps addressing big scientific, industrial and societal challenges and fosters innovation and business opportunities and Europe must be able to take full advantage of it. Some trends:

  • More computing cores in the chip at less energy requirements are profoundly changing the semiconductor industry and all end-user markets
  • Cloud computing, Mobile devices and Apps, Social Technologies, Big Data Analytics today represent about 20% of global IT spending, growing 6 times faster than traditional IT (80% of the IT market by 2020)
  • HPC is pushing the computing frontier (exascale) needed for new applications (e.g. Human Brain Project, Square Kilometre Array)
  • Sustainable HPC : 100 times current computing power consuming 100 times less energy
  • Europe consumes 30% of world HPC… but supplies 5%
  • Europe decreasing its score in top 500 world supercomputers (~20% and only 2 in top 10)

It can be safely argued that HPC is a strategic resource for the EU’s future from both the scientific and industrial point of view. Computational Science is already the “third pillar” of science. Scientific endeavours increasingly rely on data, simulation and models. The most powerful supercomputers are needed to address scientific and societal grand challenges in demand of huge computing and data resources. Industry relies more and more in HPC for innovation in products and services. Several of the most profitable and vibrant industrial sectors in Europe are big HPC users (manufacturing, oil & gas, pharmaceutical industry, etc.). These are some examples:

  • Smart Cities. Cyber-physical embedded systems and real time simulation and control for drinking/waste water, electricity consumption and distribution (e.g. Dalkia/Veolia, EDF). Propagation of electromagnetic waves for reducing power in antennas (Geomod)
  • Health. HPC for modelling instead of animal testing (e.g. L’Oreal, Rhenovia). Understanding the human (Virtual Phisiological Human, Human Brain Project Flagship)
  • Transport. Virtual prototyping, reducing time-to-market (Airbus, Renault, Porsche, etc
  • Big data analytics for finance (Paypal -online fraud detection-, Geco -real-time calculation of insurance quotes-, Amazon –predictive purchase-), health (personalised medical diagnosis) or Global System Science

The European HPC strategy and its implementation through Horizon 2020

The European HPC strategy consists in three tighly interelated elements and is supported by Horizon 2020. The three pillars are:

  • Computer Science: towards exascale HPC. This pillar is supported by a special Horizon 2020 Future and Emerging Techologies initiative focussing on the next generations of exascale computing as a key horizontal enabler for advanced modelling, simulation and big-data applications [HPC in Future and Emerging Technologies (FET)]
  • Providing access to the best supercomputing facilities and services for both industry and academia. This is implemented through PRACE, which is partly funding by Horizon 2020 eInfrastructure programme.
  • Achieving excellence in HPC applications. Implemented through the Centres of Excellence for scientific/industrial HPC applications in domains that are most important for Europe. This pillar is funded through Horizon 2020 eInfrastructure programme.

These three pillars are complemented with training, education and skills development in HPC. This is how they three pillars are related to each other:


And this is how the overall landscape looks like, with some budgetary figures attached:


The Public Private Partnership for HPC

In order to bring together all European actors in the HPC arena, the European Commission signed in January 2014 a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with ETP4HPC, the European Technology Platform for HPC. All PPP partners commit to support the development and implementation of Research & Innovation activities required to implement the European HPC strategy. Other partnerships have been set-up in the following related areas: Factories of the Future, Energy-efficient Buildings, European Green Vehicles, Sustainable Industrial Process, Future Internet (Advanced 5G network), Robotics, Photonics and Big Data Value Chain.

The objectives of the PPP for HPC are the following:

  • To build a European world-class HPC technology value chain that is globally competitive – synergy between technology development, applications and computing infrastructure
  • To achieve a critical mass of convergent resources in order to increase the competitiveness of European HPC vendors and solutions
  • To leverage the transformative power of HPC to boost European competitiveness in science and business
  • To expand the HPC base, especially SMEs (both as users and suppliers of competitive HPC technology solutions)
  • To develop a EU leadership and world-wide excellence in key application domains for industry, science and society

At this moment in time the PPP focuses on two of the three pillars of the European HPC strategy:

PPP scope

Next steps in Horizon 2020

I will conclude with a brief look at what’s on the agenda for 2015.

We are currently drafting the Work Programme 2016-2017. This is very much work in progress. Our initial ideas cover   (1) the support of the implementation of the Pan-European HPC infrastructure through PRACE, (2) the procurement of innovative solutions in HPC through the Public Prucurement of Innovation (PPI) instrument, (3) the development of core technologies towards exascale in the context of the PPP in HPC and (4) the procurement of the HPC platform of the Human Brain Project.

In 2015 we will be busy setting up the first Centres of Excellence for which the call has been recently closed.

By mid 2015 we will have the final results of the Study to follow the progress on the implementation of the European HPC strategy. This study covers the HPC market and HPC R&I landscape in the EU, the impact and the return on HPC investments in innovation and economic progress and growth in the EU and the status of the implementation of the HPC Communication Action Plan.

Finally, by the end of 2015 we will report to Parliament and Council on the implementation of the European HPC strategy. We are convinced that both Parliament and Council will be very satisfied with the achievements of the European HPC community.

The European HPC Strategy – Regional Vision and Strategy

European Exascale vision and strategy on Big Data and Extreme Computing

I have been invited to participate in the panel discussion “European Exascale vision and strategy on Big Data and Extreme Computing” organised in the context of Big Data and Extreme-scale Computing for Europe workshop that takes place in Barcelona, Spain on January 28, 2015. I thank the organisers for their kind invitation. This blog post summarises the main points of my intervention.

Applications are a strategic asset for Europe in the HPC arena. Europe is leader in HPC-powered applications that address societal challenges or are important for industrial competitiveness. A considerable demand for HPC is also present in emerging domains such as Big Data, High-Performance Data Analytics, Global System Science, as well as flagship projects such as the Human Brain Project.

However, only very few applications using HPC really take advantage of current petaflop machines. Current application owners and users find it a challenge to adapt to increasing performance and parallelism and to new architectures.

In the previous European research framework programme, FP7, no specific activity was dedicated to HPC application work. A certain amount was carried out inside PRACE, mainly to scale applications for efficient use of Tier-0 machines and to offer some support to industrial applications, but not in a systematic way and not always led by the application users as we believe it should be the case.

Our European HPC strategy identifies “Excellence in applications” as one of the three critical pillars in Horizon 2020, the current European research framework programme. This pillar focuses on supporting the establishment of Centres of Excellence (CoEs) for computing applications.

In our view, these CoEs should further consolidate the EU’s strong position in HPC applications by coordinating and stimulating parallel software code development and scaling, and by ensuring the availability of quality HPC software to users. There is a need to gather multidisciplinary teams, associating computer scientists, mathematicians and scientists to define better computational methods and algorithms

The CoEs will focus and coordinate the application work of HPC in scientific or industrial domains that are most important for Europe. The objective of the CoEs will be to develop a culture of excellence, both scientific and industrial, placing computational science at the centre of scientific discovery and industrial competitiveness

CoEs will aim at the development, provisioning and support of leading edge software and associated expertise and skills for both scientific and industrial applications. Moreover, increased productivity and competitiveness require that codes are well maintained and validated by communities rather than individual users. They should be made available through clear license terms with professional support, rather than the “best effort” approach used for many codes today.

Preparing applications for exascale imply that very advanced software and new computational methods and algorithms must be made available and adopted by practitioners, radically changing the way that large-scale applications are conceived and programmed. We expect that this activity will link with the support to applications/algorithmic developments that are carried out in the FET-HPC programme (also part of Horizon 2020).

Last but not least, CoEs should work in synergy with the other two pillars of the HPC strategy: the pan-European HPC infrastructure, and the technology-supply effort towards exascale. This could be done by identifying suitable applications for co-design activities relevant to the development of HPC technologies towards exascale, and the collaboration with supercomputing centres for the re-use of common tools and methods and the validation the new approaches to applications

The topics of the CoEs will be chosen following the recently closed call for proposals. Our goal is not to cover all possible HPC application areas, but to have at the end of the day some excellent ones that can become Europe and world-wide references in their specific domain

European Exascale vision and strategy on Big Data and Extreme Computing

Key Performance Indicators and cooperation among eInfrastructure projects

We have just launched the grant preparation phase for the first big set of eInfrastructure projects under Horizon 2020 and we have written to the project coordinators to underline the issues they have take into consideration when preparing their technical annexes.

All the issues raised in the letters are consistent with our legal framework, but there are two that I consider really relevant in our current context: Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs) and cooperation across projects.

We have reminded project coordinators about the requirement to monitor the performance of their projects and gather relevant data to help in assessing their impact. To this end, the consortia are asked to establish the most relevant KPIs and monitor them during the project’s duration. These KPIs will be reported periodically to the us.

In addition, we have asked the projects to actively participate in concertation activities, consultations and other meetings and events related to e-infrastructure. The objective is to optimise synergies between projects by providing input and receiving feedback from other stakeholders. This activity should also be described in the technical annex.

In this context, we will group the e-infrastructure projects that successfully complete the grant preparation phase into clusters of related projects. I will post here information on the cluster relevant to all projects at the finalisation of the grant preparatory phase. We expect that project clusters proactively prepare a common presentation for the first concertation meeting we plan to organise in November 2015.

Key Performance Indicators and cooperation among eInfrastructure projects

Our biggest challenges in 2015

Early January is always the time to think about last year’s achievements and what’s ahead of us. And it is always the same: no matter how great the previous year was, the challenges ahead feel overwhelming. This post is about the biggest challenges being faced by the Research Infrastructure (RI) community as identified by the Horizon 2020 Advisory Group on European Research Infrastructures. After having read this post, please tell me if I have reasons to feel overwhelmed. Continue reading “Our biggest challenges in 2015”

Our biggest challenges in 2015