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What Exactly is the Mont-Blanc Project for Exascale?

This morning’s news that Allinea will be supporting the Mont-Blanc project got me curious, so here is what I learned:

The newly launched Mont Blanc Project aims to set future global HPC standards, through its utilization of ARM technology to develop energy efficient HPC systems. The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), which is coordinator of the 14 million Euro project, is using Allinea DDT on their prototype ARM cluster in the porting of HPC applications to this new platform. This presentation has some interesting details, but here is what the project site had to say:  

The analysis of the performance of HPC systems since 1993 shows exponential improvements at the rate of one order of magnitude every 3 years: One petaflops was achieved in 2008, one exaflops is expected in 2020. Based on a 20 MW power budget, this requires an efficiency of 50 GFLOPS/Watt. However, the current leader in energy efficiency achieves only 1.7n GFLOPS/Watt. Thus, a 30x improvement is required.

In this project, we believe that HPC systems developed from today’s energy-efficient solutions used in embedded and mobile devices are the most likely to succeed. As of today, the CPUs of these devices are mostly designed by ARM. However, ARM processors have not been designed for HPC, and ARM chips have never used in HPC systems before, leading to a number of significant challenges.

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