Eviden: No Impact from Atos’s Financial Difficulties – ‘We Are Growing and Hiring’

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News reports about financially troubled French technology company Atos have been accompanied by questions about the stability of Eviden, one of two units within the Atos group focused on advanced computing, big data and security. In the HPC community, the focus has been on Eviden’s supercomputer operation, the HPC systems leader in Europe that is building Europe’s first exascale-class supercomputer.

We spoke with Eviden’s Group Senior Vice President, Head of Advanced Computing, HPC, Quantum, AI Solutions Emmanuel Le Roux, who asserted that Atos’ financial troubles have had no impact on Eviden, that Eviden is winning deals, growing and hiring. He also said that if Eviden were to encounter financial problems it has the backing of the French government.

“I want to make sure that you know we have a momentum that is fantastic…, the dynamic is very good … and the continuity of the business is secure,” said Le Roux.

“Operationally, day to day, we are growing plus 15 percent in 2023 versus 2022 in terms of business,” he said. “We are doing in Q1 (this year) our best first quarter ever in HPC. We have almost (achieved) in Q1 our (first half of the year revenue) objectives in terms of order entry. And we did three times our yearly budget on AI systems just in Q1.”

He also said the HPC-AI unit within Eviden now has roughly 3,000 employees, up 10 percent from 2022, with more hiring ongoing; Eviden’s total employment count is roughly 47,000.

Le Roux cited two contract wins this month:

  • The Danish Centre for AI Innovation, owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Export and Investment Fund of Denmark, selected Eviden to construct an AI supercomputer. The system is expected to deliver 6 exaflops of FP8 AI performance and is based on the NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD architecture. Named Gefion, the system is scheduled to be ready for pilot projects before the end of the year and will be housed in Denmark’s national Centre for AI Innovation.
  • GENCI (the Grand Equipement National de Calcul Intensif) and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) selected Eviden to supply an Nvidia H-100 GPU-powered computing infrastructure for the French national supercomputing centers. The GPU partition of Jean Zay, GENCI’s supercomputer operated by the CNRS’s Institut de Développement et de Ressources en Informatique Scientifique (IDRIS), will be installed by Eviden in April and available to users by early summer.

Emmanuel Le Roux

In addition, Le Roux said the French government has pledged its support, underscoring the country’s drive for “AI sovereignty.” On March 19, the government said: “Regarding Atos’ sensitive activities, in particular Big Data & Security (i.e., Eviden), the State will build in the coming weeks a national solution to protect strategic activities. All the interests of France will be preserved. Bruno Le Maire (Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty) will use all means at its disposal to guarantee the protection of strategic activities.”

Speculation about Eviden arose starting last year when it was reported that Atos had built up debt of more than €4.5 billion and, more recently, that talks had collapsed with Daniel Křetínský of EP Equity Investment for the acquisition of Atos’ Tech Foundations legacy managed infrastructure business unit.

Meanwhile, it was reported a year ago that European aerospace company Airbus had stepped away from a plan to acquire nearly 30 percent of Eviden.

“The deal didn’t happen,” Le Roux said. “I think from an HPC perspective this is not a drama. As you know Airbus is not an HPC player, though there were synergies. But we can do without it. We are doing without it.”

He added: “We would not have had more AI and HPC experts by being part of Airbus. So it’s bad that this didn’t happen because we worked like hell for three months to do it. But this is not impacting the HPC strategy.”

Atos faces a financial challenge with a deadline of January 2025, by which time it needs to address its debt problem. But Le Roux said this does not impact Eviden.

“We are doing everything to help the group to solve it of course, we are part of one family,” he said. “But from a business perspective, there is no link with the generation of the debt, there is no impact on the operations today. And if this debt issue is not solved – which we don’t believe will happen – then there is this press release from the French government saying we are guaranteeing the future of this business. So that’s a message that I’m repeating every hour now to our customers.”