30 Jan 2019 Almere - Recently the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) opened a call for pre-exascale supercomputers: "Call For Expression of Interest for the Selection of Hosting Entities for Precursors to Exascale Supercomputers". 250 million euro funding from direct EuroHPC funding is available. This needs to be matched by the countries involved in the pre-exascale systems. So the total budget is 500 million euro. This budget should be used for the acquisition of at least two pre-exascale supercomputers with a performance between 150 Petaflop/s and 1 Exaflop/s and for the operating costs of the system. Power envelope should be between 10-15 MW.
But what is a "hosting entity"? When can you apply? Let us start with the financial part. So about 50% of the money has to be supplied by the country or countries that want to operate the machine. These countries have to be member of EuroHPC. EuroHPC JU calls that a "participating state". One computing centre in these countries will operate the pre-exascale system. That centre will be the hosting entity. Sounds complicated? It is actually even a bit more complex. Although each EuroHPC country can be part of a consortium that wants to acquire a EuroHPC supercomputer, only a EuroHPC country that is also a member of the European Union can have the hosting entity within its borders. From the current list of EuroHPC countries this rules out Norway. And if Switzerland joins EuroHPC, as they intend to do, they will not be able to put a EuroHPC system in their supercomputing centre CSCS in Lugano.
If we look at the current candidates for a pre-exascale EuroHPC system, it becomes a bit clearer. There are three candidates that publicly have expressed their interest. Whether they will actually submit a proposal, we will only know if they have success: the whole selection procedure is confidential.
Italy, with CINECA as hosting entity, is one candidate: one member state that is also member of EuroHPC. The second candidacy is from a consortium of Portugal and Spain. A consortium of two EU member states that are also EuroHPC member. They intend to have a pre-exascale system in BSC, Barcelona.
The third candidate is a consortium led by Finland. The consortium includes several Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway and countries in western and central Europe: Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The consortium is in negotiation with others too. When successful the EuroHPC pre-exascale system will be housed in a CSC operated facility in Kajaani in the Artic part of Finland. All the countries in the consortium have to commit to financially contribute to the EuroHPC system.
All three candidates have computer centres - BSC, CINECA, CSC - with a long track record of operating supercomputers for science. That is one of the requirements.
There could be other consortia formed and hosting entities proposed. However taking into account that the three largest supercomputer countries in Europe most likely will not enter the pre-exascale supercomputer competition the number of viable potential competitors does not seem that large. Germany and France have expressed their interest in the next phase, the exascale systems, they can fund pre-exascale computers from national funds. The UK will, probably, not be a EU member anymore after March, so not eligible to host a EuroHPC system.
The call is only for the hosting entity, not for a supercomputer system. Together with the selected hosting entity the EuroHPC JU will later launch the procurement of the systems. EuroHPC JU shall at least buy two pre-exascale systems. It is not excluded that there will be three (or more), however the more systems, the smaller they will get and it will be less likely they will be competitive on a world scale.
To be competitive, the pre-exascale systems will most likely be based on non-European technology: The processor developed by the European Processor Initiative will not be ready in time for these systems, and it does not necessarily have to be a European vendor. However, each hosting entity can also propose to have a small additional exascale demonstrator system. This would include experimental hardware (and software) to demonstrate technology that can be used at exascale. This small system takes up to 6% of the costs of the pre-exascale system.
Through EuroHPC JU, the European Union and participating countries will make 500 million euro available to acquire and operate two or three 150 Petaflop/s systems, measured in LINPACK. When currently deployed they would be on the first place of the TOP500. However, it will take at least another two years before they are in operation. Whether one of these systems will take the nr. 1 spot is not very likely looking at the plans of the US, China and Japan, but perhaps one will make it in the top 3 of the TOP500.
If you are thinking about submitting your interest for this hosting entity call, the closing date and time are 04-04-2019 - 12:00 AM Brussels time, but you have to deliver your proposal on paper (yes, look up the address of your courier) in Luxembourg.
Details of the Call for Selection of Hosting Entities for Pre-Exascale Supercomputers are available at the EuroHPC JU website.