How to fit ten million computers into a single Supercomputer? ExaNeSt paves the way

European consortium becomes the trailblazer in the development of the most challenging architectures

The next generation of supercomputers must be capable of a billion billion calculations per second.  These are referred to as Exascale computersand with this ability to undertake such volume of calculations, they will transform our understanding of the world through advanced simulation and problem solving.

It will take ten million processors working together to achieve Exascale – the equivalent of asking ten million individuals to solve, in a single second, a problem that would normally take one person 3 months (about ten million seconds); so how can this be achieved?

A step towards the Exascale vision is being made by a European Consortium, funded by the Horizon2020 initiative of the EU and entitled ExaNeSt, which is building its first straw man prototypethis year, 2016.

The Consortium consists of twelve partners, each of which has expertise in a core technology needed for innovation to reach Exascale. ExaNeSt takes the sensible, integrated approach of co-designing the hardware and software, enabling the prototype to run real-life evaluations, facilitating its scalability and maturity into this decade and beyond.

Being able to move, process and manage unprecedented volumes of data would allow greater insight into many areas of our lives including climate change, cosmology, drug design, energy safety, national security, material science, medicine and countless other scientific and engineering disciplines.

Understanding more of the world allows us to manage its future more effectively and contribute positively to the advancement of society. Current technology, however, is faced with many technical limitations in reaching an Exascale architecture. Key barriers are energy and cooling demands, compact packaging, permanent storage, interconnection, resilience and not least application behavior.

ExaNeSt addresses these using: energy-efficient ARM cores, quiet and power-efficient liquid cooling, non-volatile (e.g. flash) memories integrated into the processor fabric, and the development of innovative, fast interconnects that avoid congestion.

Manolis Katevenis, Head of Computer Architecture at FORTH-ICS, said: “As project coordinators, we will seek an efficient collaboration of all partners to build the prototypes – as we have done time and again in the past – because only through real, working systems can computing advance to its next stage.”

Peter Hopton, Founder and CTO of ICEOTOPE, commented: “Iceotope can uniquely enable the ExaNeSt project due to its 3D cooling capability - and by doing so, the Iceotope platform lends itself readily to the first, demonstrable Exascale prototype.”