The European Processor developed as part of EuroHPC will be crucial for European sovereignty, says Atos CEO Thierry Breton

19 Apr 2018 Sofia - Atos CEO Thierry Breton gave a keynote at the EuroHPC Conference in Sofia, stressing the importance of a European microprocessor that can be used in Edge computing in, for instance, the automotive industry and in the EuroHPC exascale systems. It is crucial for Europe to regain its sovereignty in this area. Next is a slightly edited, for readability, version of his presentation.

I'm very honoured to be here, in Sofia, to speak. One of my favourite subjects is HPC, because in our world, as we all know, in this new era, we speak a lot about data. We speak a lot about digitization. But more and more we recognize that without supercomputers, we will never be able to maintain or to win back our sovereignty in this new data space. So, I'm extremely happy that under the leadership of Commissioner Gabriel, the Commission has decided to make this subject one of the highest priority topics.

We all know that today is about exascale computing, about the 1018calculations that are processed every second. We will be present, we will do it. When I say 'we', I mean of course Atos but behind Atos, the entire European continent. It is extremely important that we monitor this exascale strategy. I know that you're expecting this machine to be available by 2022-2023, and it will be.

Without HPC, forget cybersecurity. Without supercomputing, forget sovereignty in artificial intelligence. That's why, when we look around, in the US, in China, and in Japan, we know that governments are making big efforts to support their industry in this race.

To tell you the truth, we have a strong industry in Europe. At Atos we are building supercomputers for a lot of customers, including for governments, private companies and research, so we will support the EuroHPC Initiative. But I also want to mention another initiative which is extremely important: the European Processor Initiative (EPI) which aims to foster an exascale high performance computing ecosystem built around a European low-energy microprocessor.

Let me share with you, this being said as an introduction, my three main messages:

  • First, industry 4.0 calls for ever more computing power. Here, Europe is definitely on the rise;
  • Second, HPC, Big Data and sovereignty are closely linked and will be the basis for EuroHPC;
  • Third, EuroHPC requires the success of the European Processor Initiative to maintain its sovereignty.

The 4.0 industry calls for more and more computing power. Industry 4.0 is probably the most disruptive concept for our industries. It is enabled by the Internet of Things and it leverages the integration of people, applications and assets within a company. It also fosters integration of a company with its ecosystem consisting of subcontractors, customers, suppliers, and research partners.

The major trends in industry 4.0 are shorter product and service life cycles and therefore the need to speed up time to market.

Advanced robots as well as autonomous and artificial intelligence based system combined with powerful software and sensors are more and more present in the industrial factories around us. These new technologies generate huge amounts of industrial data related to production, operation and utilization. When we anticipate, let's say, 2025 which is already on the horizon, we are convinced that industrial data platforms will be commonplace in B2B in the same way as platforms are dominating the B2C world today.

We can say that Europe was not as present in B2C as we should have been but we are still very present in terms of regulation. I'm convinced personally that we will come back through regulation in this B2C race. In this new B2B race, let me tell you that personally, I see that Europe is probably in advance and we need to continue and to speed up this advantage.

Indeed data, and especially machine generated data, will be in this industrial war the key resource. To be instrumental, data has to be shared between the different players of the value chain as none of them has at the same time the data related to production, operation and user utilisation. So data has to be shared within an organised ecosystem.

The industrial data platform will provide the economy of scale and will be key, not only for predictive analytics but also as a fuel for machine learning and then for the next generation of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. This is the next phase of industry 4.0.

In this perspective, we strongly support the digitizing of the European industry initiative launched by the Commission, now almost two years ago. You know that we are working very closely with our partner Siemens and together, we have developed, as we believe, the best platform in this space, the so-called MindSphere offering to provide it to industries and services like predictive maintenance to the customers of all the factories. This has been the result of more than 300 million euro in a joint R&D effort between Atos and Siemens started in 2011. It is a good example of a strong cooperation between a big German industrial company and Atos, a European leader in digital technology.

This industrial data platform is today regrouping our components in analytics, Cloud, Internet of Things, security, artificial intelligence and interfacing. So, we are ready and we have the tools today to win this race. This platform is emerging as a de facto operating system for the Internet of Things initiative within industry 4.0.

I just give you this example to tell you that we have many initiatives in Europe and I think, again, the timing is absolutely perfect. This is why together with Siemens but also with all our partners in the ecosystem, we are promoting the idea of an industrial data space which will facilitate the entire opportunity of the Internet of Things. We are all active members of this industrial data space association to promote the three following points: first, data is a key resource for business model innovation; second, this has to be shared in ecosystems; and third, trust between ecosystem partners is key because we have to balance between data ownership, data security versus interoperability, and data exchange to create value services. I believe that this industrial data will be so important in the future for our European companies that I think that it will be very important that we all recognize that in this space European industrial data will have to be stored and processed in Europe under our own regulations. This is very important and it's probably time not to be naive.

The second point I wanted to share with you is that high performance computing, Big Data and sovereignty are, of course, closely linked and will be the basis for EuroHPC. European independence in that field is a strategic objective. Again, and I keep telling that here also it's time not to be naive anymore. The strengthening of technologies and actors of the European HPC ecosystem are therefore an absolute priority in my view. As I mentioned earlier, you have comparable initiatives in the US, in China, and in Japan and they are all designed to develop their own capabilities and increase their independence. So it's time for us to react. Thanks to Commissioner Gabriel who will lead this EuroHPC initiative. We believe that this initiative is absolutely mandatory.

We believe that the speed of implementation combined with the governance principle favouring a pragmatic industrial approach are the condition for and a guarantee of scientific, industrial and European society success overall. Under these conditions, the EuroHPC project will result in the creation of skilled jobs. I love the idea of having HPC Hubs to favour the appetite of what we can do and also to train the new generation in HPC which is extremely important also in deep learning analytics and artificial intelligence.

This will also accelerate the competitivity and the digital transformation of the European industry. I would like to tell you one word on quantum computing. Because, of course, we know that this will be the next phase of computing. Nobody can tell when we will see a real quantum computer but what we can see today is that probably within the next five to ten years we will start to see quantum accelerators linked to HPC on specific algorithms. Atos is working on this very subject. This is why we have decided to invest a lot here and that we launched the first quantum simulator in the world and called it 'Quantum Learning Machine' simulating up to 40 qubits. We are happy to see that it is being used in many universities and research centres, also for the training of a new generation and inventing the new algorithms.

The third point I wanted to share with you is that EuroHPC also requires the success of the European Processor Initiative (EPI). That is absolutely critical. That is the heart of everything. I'm extremely happy that the Commission decided to launch this. It is very technical so it's not easy, but it is absolutely mandatory. Today, we have few processors in the world, and none of them is truly European. It is time for us to work on this. I know that this requires a lot of energy, a lot of money. So I'm happy that the Commission has decided to have an envelope, and to increase the envelope. We start with an envelope of 200-250 million euro. It is a very good start but we know that we will probably need more. But at least, we have now the tool to work together.

I think the Commission has decided to have a very original approach to first have this low power microprocessor for HPC, but also, to support the market of this microprocessor, we will need probably to find another industry which will be a big user. We have identified the automotive industry, connected cars, automotive driving, assistance systems, and the transition to electrical vehicles, that will all need this kind of processor.

So, in fact, we will work on a processor being able to support HPC with many processors in parallel and if we take a single processor, it will be embedded into the automotive industry. When you look at the 20th century, we have seen that the automotive industry drove a lot of innovation and at the beginning of the 21st century, we had the crisis in the automotive industry and we thought it was over. Now, we see that it will probably again in this new digital era be similar with the automotive industry and that it will drive innovation in this space. This is exactly why we will work on this EPI initiative for HPC on one hand but also for this market that we believe will be extremely important. So, HPC and Edge computing will use again the same processor in a massive multi-core configuration for HPC, and, as I mentioned earlier, in a single one for Edge computing while using the same instruction set architecture to facilitate synchronization between Edge computing and HPC.

Of course, we need to store all this data, we call it the "digital twin". Probably you will have all your virtual car data being stored in real time in a Cloud-based system allowing to engage security, prescriptive analysis, artificial intelligence, and secure operations. Such architecture also requires significant software development and that's probably the same amount of money we will be needing to talk about in the future.

We see that when we speak about HPC and about EPI, we actually speak of an ecosystem being able to transform the European continent and the world.

As a conclusion, I would like to tell you we have seen that European exascale computing will be absolutely key for the industrial success of Europe in the years to come. As I mentioned and I want to reiterate this, the European Processor Initiative project could and will make a significant contribution to strengthening European industry and science in the HPC domain and in other emerging applications. This will be a virtuous circle between the EuroHPC exascale project and the automotive industry, and this is something that we need to encourage.

The technology drive will certainly come from the HPC exascale market while the business drive will come from the automotive market and then later on from other parts of the industry.

If all the prerequisites are in place , I am strongly convinced that more and more large industrial companies will soon choose to develop their own computing and artificial intelligence strategy on the basis of this processor. I'm committed to work to convince our colleagues in Europe to use this processor.

This being said, it has been an honour, Ms. Commissioner, to speak today in Sofia to support the Commission in all this aspects, to support you in your initiative and I am absolutely convinced that, thanks to this initiative, we will be able regain, to maintain our leadership, our sovereignty in this very strategic area.

Ad Emmen