Belgium to contribute 5 million euro to Finnish led pre-exascale EuroHPC consortium


BrENIAC logo of current VSC supercomputer.
4 Mar 2019 Brussels - The Belgian federal government has decided to make available a maximum of 5 million euro for participation in a pre-exascale hosting consortium. This was announced by the Belgian minister for Science Sophie Wilmès and the minster for Digital Agenda Philippe De Backer. Earlier, the pre-exascale EuroHPC bidding consortium led by Finland said Belgium would join.

The Flemish minister of Science - Science policy is distributed over several governments in Belgium - Philippe Muyters, gave details on the current state of supercomputing in Flanders in a Commission of the Parliament. The new 30 million euro supercomputer of the Flemish Supercomputer Centre will go into production in May. Flanders supports participation in European HPC (EuroHPC), Quantum Computing and AI.

Installation Flemish supercomputer progressing

Minister Muyters said that in December the contracts were signed with Nippon Electric Company (NEC), for the new BrENIAC that will be hosted at the Flemish Supercomputer Centre (VSC). The Flemish government invests 30 million euro in this Tier-1 supercomputing platform that will provide an upgrade to the "traditional" Tier-1 compute infrastructure component of the VSC - currently also called BrENIAC - and will even further extend compute capacity in 2020. Additionally, this Tier-1 platform will include storage and Cloud components, enabling centralized data management and providing easier ways for analysis and accessing research results.

The investments in this “Supercomputing-as-a-Service" platform will be made in the period 2018-2022.

Installation of the system started in February 2019. Minister Muyters expects that the system will be fully operational in May 2019.

PRACE

Researchers in Flanders also participate in PRACE, both in the preparatory PRACE Access Calls and in the funded projects themselves. In both, one with a research organisation from Flanders was selected. How many submitted and failed is not known. But the access to PRACE for researchers is getting more and more difficult even for experienced users, Minister Muyters said. That's why the VSC, together with colleagues from Wallonia, organised a workshop to help with proposal writing for access to these Tier-0 systems.

EuroHPC and Flanders

Minister Muyters noted that indeed there is a European policy towards exascale supercomputers. Also countries like the USA and China are working on that. There are two phases: the pre-exascale phase in which we are now and the exascale phase. The pre-exascale call closes in April 2019. According to Minister Muyters, Belgium is interested in participating in one of the consortia that will be bidding. We can assume this is the consortium led by Finland, and that Flanders supports this Belgian participation. However, the distribution within Belgium over the general government and the regional governments still needs to be decided.

Flanders is also interested in Quantum Computing and active in the preparations for the European Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Quantum Technology Flagship with a budget of a billion euro for ten years. Flanders is equally active in Artificial Intelligence (AI), according to Minister Muyters. The Flemish Interuniversitary Micro-Electronics Centre (imec) en the French Laboratoire d'Électronique des technologies de l'information (CEA-Leti) have signed an agreement to collaborate on AI and Quantum technology. The idea is to produce a modular hardware computing toolbox that can be used by the European industry in all kinds of application areas including personalised medicine, smart mobility and construction, and energy.
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