PRACE picks prototypes for petaflops proof

I wrote an article back in June for HPCwire that described some of the high level things going on in publicly funded HPC in Europe. In that article I talk about PRACE

The goal of PRACE is to establish three to five European “tier 0″ centers, each with petascale resources, that will serve broader EU science and industrial research goals. PRACE is still very much a planning exercise, currently funded at 40M euros of what is expected to grow to an estimated 200M euro budget for operations alone.

While things are getting organized with PRACE, technical progress is being made. Today the organization announced that it has chosen 6 systems to evaluate as prototypes for petaflops systems to be installed in 2009 and 2010. From the release

BSC (Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain), installs a hybrid prototype combining IBM Cell and Power6 processors. The Cell processors are used for computation and the Power6 processors for service.

CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission, France) and FZJ (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany) jointly use Intel Nehalem/Xeon processors in their systems. Two shared-memory multiprocessors (thin node clusters) will be distributed over the two sites; a prototype produced by BULL at CEA and a larger system of the same architecture at FZJ.

CSC (The Finnish IT Center for Science, Finland) and CSCS (Swiss National Supercomputing Centre, Switzerland) jointly evaluate the Cray XT5 architecture. This Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) prototype will be installed at CSC’s facilities.

FZJ provides its already installed IBM BlueGene/P system, as a Massively Parallel Processing prototype.

HLRS (High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart, Germany) offers a NEC SX-9 and an x86 based cluster as a hybrid prototype.

NCF (Netherlands Computing Facilities Foundation, The Netherlands) evaluates the IBM Power6 architecture, a shared-memory multiprocessor (fat node cluster). This prototype will be installed in SARA Computing and Networking Services facilities in Amsterdam.

Other than the Bull machine, these are all machines with a high degree of special purpose technology. Noticeably absent: SGI, HP and, to a lesser degree, Sun. I’m glad to see the NEC in there; we don’t see too many of those in the US.

The prototypes are going to be used to evaluate performance and scalability and “total cost of ownership” (energy costs).

They will make also possible the evaluation of software for managing the distributed infrastructure, the preparation of benchmarks for future Petascale systems allowing better understanding of user requirements, the scaling and optimisation of libraries and codes and the definition of technical requirements and procurement procedures for the PRACE Petaflop/s production systems for 2009/2010.

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