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GENCI boosts European research with Curie

  • Designed by Bull, the new Curie supercomputer is one of the most powerful in the world. It will further strengthen both the French and European High-Performance Computing (HPC) ecosystems
  • With Curie, France reaffirms its commitment as part of the European PRACE initiative (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe)

Paris, October  5, 2010 -

With the purchase of one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, capable of over one million billion operations a second, GENCI - the French national High-Performance Computing organization - is providing the French and European scientific communities an unrivalled tool that will push back the boundaries of knowledge. With Curie, France reaffirms its commitment to the development of Europe's future very large-scale intensive computing infrastructures, under the auspices of the PRACE initiative (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe).

The new supercomputer - named Curie in tribute to Pierre and Marie Curie whose work is a cornerstone of a significant part of modern scientific thinking - has been designed by Bull according to a very strict specification. Featuring a modular, general purpose architecture, it will enable a wide variety of applications to be run in all scientific disciplines from plasma and high-energy physics, to chemistry and nanotechnologies, from energy and sustainable development to climatology and the evaluation of natural risks, from medicine to biology...

"Nowadays, intensive computing is a key element in national competitiveness, both in scientific and industrial domains," commented Catherine Rivière, CEO of GENCI - the public agency responsible for setting the strategic directions and making top priority investments in the area of intensive computing to support academic research in France.

"With technical support from CEA (Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives), through a competitive tendering process, we were able to assess the excellence of Bull's offering. This means we will soon have at our disposal a machine that will offer French and European scientists the resources they need to carry out their research work at the highest possible level in a highly competitive global environment," she added.

Delivering 1.6 Petaflops, this is the most powerful European supercomputer ever ordered

With a peak power of 1.6 Petaflops (1.6 million billion operations a second), Curie would rank among the three most powerful supercomputers in the world if it were fully operational today.

This level of performance, unrivalled in Europe at this time, opens up new scientific horizons, in climatology for example: "We need significant computer processing power to simulate, as realistically as possible, the climates of the past and of the present, and to project ourselves into the future according to various scenarios in terms of its evolution," explained Jean Jouzel, one of the Vice Presidents of the IPCC and Director of the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace. "With Curie, we can envisage carrying out ensemble multi-model climate simulations to a resolution of just a few tens of kilometers across the whole planet, for simulations covering several hundreds of years. This will also facilitate increased European involvement in the next round of co-ordinated international climate change exercises, as part of the CMIP5 program, the results of which will then be widely used in the IPCC's fifth report."

Capitalizing on the latest technological developments

The design of Curie clearly demonstrates the expertise that Bull's engineers in Europe have built up in the technologies of computer simulation and Extreme Computing, most notably through their close collaboration with the CEA and with other major international research centers.

"The fact that GENCI has ordered a very large-scale bullx supercomputer to support its involvement in the PRACE program is very satisfying for Bull on two counts. Firstly it demonstrates the excellence that our engineers have achieved in technologies that go into the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. But over and above this, it carries within it the seeds of our own aim: to build a large-scale European ecosystem to support innovation, because we are convinced that technological supremacy is our best asset when it comes to facing up to global competition and ensuring the creation of high-level employment here in Europe," commented Philippe Vannier, Chairman and CEO of Bull.

The bullx supercomputer commissioned by GENCI will benefit from a modular and balanced architecture featuring different types of processing nodes, including most notably 5,040 blades equipped with the next generation of Intel® Xeon® processors. It will offer an unprecedented processing capacity and density in Europe, opening up the way to major scientific advances.

In total, Curie will have over 90,000 processing cores and will be connected to an I/O system which will enable it to store over 10 PB of data at speeds of up to 250 GB/s.

"The path to Exascale requires taking key steps in computing power and application footprint," said Rajeeb Hazra, GM HPC, Intel Data Center Group. "Intel is delighted to support GENCI in bringing these new capabilities to the PRACE program and community. Throughout this program, Intel is looking forward to supporting GENCI with future generations of Xeon® processors".

Curie will also be notable for its environmental performance, occupying a floor space of just 200m2. By way of comparison, its processing power will be equivalent to that of over 150,000 laptops put together, which if they were stacked on top of each other would create a pile over 4km (2.5 miles) high. And the machine's cooling will be optimized with a system of cooling doors developed by Bull, which will deliver savings of around 75% on the cost of cooling compared with conventional technologies.

Curie will be implemented in two phases - the first between now and the end of the year and the second in October 2011 - at the TGCC (Très Grand Centre de Calcul), the very large-scale computing center that CEA is currently building in Bruyères-le-Châtel, France


GENCI, Grand Equipement National de Calcul Intensif, is a legal entity taking the form of a société civile (civil company) under French law, owned 49% by the French State represented by the Ministry for Higher Education and Research, 20% by the CEA, 20% by the CNRS, 10% by the universities and 1% by INRIA, the French national institute for research in computer science and control.

GENCI has been created to ensure that France achieves the highest levels in intensive computing, both at an European and international level.

It associates the main HPC actors of academic French research and benefits from public authorities' support. GENCI has the following missions since its beginning in 2007:

  • To set in place and co-ordinate the major computer equipment for the French computer centers for civil research, by providing for their financing and assuming their ownership

  • To promote the organization of European High-Performance Computing (HPC) and participate in its actions. As such, GENCI represents France in the European PRACE project

  • To promote the use of computer simulation and HPC in fundamental and industrial research.

Press contact
Laetitia Baudin, Communications Manager
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