Cray, Dell, Extoll, IBM & Nvidia to Develop Pilots for Human Brain Project

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company_logoThis week the Jülich Supercomputing Centre announced it is leading the creation of the Human Brain Project’s HPC Platform. As part of the Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP), Jülich will help develop innovative supercomputing technology solutions for the HBP that meet the specific requirements of this groundbreaking project.

Following an open call for tender in May/June of this year and a thorough evaluation of the bids received, three successful consortia have entered into contracts with Jülich:

  • Cray Computer GmbH (Switzerland) / Cray Computer Deutschland GmbH / Cray UK Limited
  • Dell GmbH / ParTec Cluster Competence Center GmbH / Extoll GmbH
  • IBM Research GmbH (Switzerland) / NVIDIA GmbH

The consortia have already entered Phase 1 of the HBP PCP and will be working independently on their design concepts until January next year, when their results will be assessed.

The HBP’s HPC Platform Subproject will build the supercomputing and data hardware and software infrastructure required to run cellular brain model simulations approaching the size of a full human brain. This infrastructure will be made available to the HBP consortium and the wider community. The central element of the HPC Platform will be the HBP Supercomputer, the project’s main production system at Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC). Over the next decade, the HBP Supercomputer will be built in stages to arrive at the exascale capability needed for cellular simulations of the complete human brain.

Large-scale, data-intensive brain simulations running on the HBP Supercomputer will need to be interactively visualised and controlled by experimenters. According to the HBP vision, “interactive supercomputing” capabilities will allow the supercomputer to be used like a scientific instrument, enabling in silico experiments on virtual human brains. These requirements will affect the whole system design, including the hardware architecture, run-time system, mode of operation, resource management and many other aspects.


PCP is a relatively new model of public procurement designed to procure research and development (R&D) services, which is promoted by the European Commission. It is organized as a competitive process comprising three phases: 1) solution exploration, leading to design concepts, 2) prototyping, 3) original development of limited volumes of first products. To select the supplier(s) best able to satisfy the goals of the PCP, the number of candidates is reduced at each phase after an evaluation of the respective results and the bids for the following phase.

The goal of the HBP PCP is to acquire R&D of HPC system components that allow interactive visualization and steering of large-scale brain simulations on an HPC architecture capable of providing a floating-point peak performance up to 50 PFlop/s and a memory capability of up to 20 PBytes. Suppliers will be required to deliver pilot systems, demonstrating the readiness of the developed technologies and their integration into a scalable HPC architecture for a representative set of HBP use cases. The pilots should be deployed and operated as “pre-production” test systems at JSC.

So, where does the Human Brain Project stand today? Find out in the HBP Project Year One Report.

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