There is a distinctly forward-looking theme to this year’s HPC 2015-16 – a View into high-performance computing. This annual supplement to Scientific Computing Worldlooks at how Canada and Europe are organising themselves to take advantage of HPC. In Europe’s case, the ambition is larger, possibly to shape the future path of HPC development and build a domestic capability for providing HPC technology and systems.
There are many differences between the two. Canada is a single, albeit federal nation; whereas the European Union, despite its name, is a very loose collection of nation states all with their own priorities and interests. Central power is surprisingly weak, compared to the power of individual governments.
But there are similarities in their approach to HPC. And the lessons of their assessment and response to the challenges of shaping a strategy for the future are relevant globally, not just locally.
Fundamentally, both have realised that they must pool resources. In the case of Canada, this has taken the form of Compute Canada, which has evolved from a disparate organisation with computational and financial resources distributed across more than 30 institutions to a well-structured federation, providing national leadership and coordination. The goal is to build a digital infrastructure that will transform Canada’s economy from one based on natural resources to a knowledge-based economy
Across the Atlantic, European Commission’ strategy for a Digital Single Market aims to get the EU’s single market fit for the digital age. And this necessity of transforming European infrastructure and industry for the digital age lies behind the European Commission’s painstaking negotiations to develop an EU strategy for high-performance computing. This is a task of great delicacy, for it involves not just the governments of EU member states but the user communities and the vendors of software and systems. Given the complexity of the problem, a coherent and sensible strategy has evolved, as outlined by Leonardo Flores Añover and Augusto Burgueño Arjona from the European Commission in this issue.
The ‘ecosystem’ of suppliers of systems is a subtle and complex landscape in which integrators offer benefits to the end-user that the major companies cannot, while at the same time offering benefits to the majors as well. This issue also includes a survey of the HPC market which finds that software as much as hardware will be critical to the future.
On the technology front, the settled paradigm that (with some notable exceptions) x86 processors have been the technology of choice for HPC is finally breaking up and a wide range of future possibilities are in view. The feature article on page 14 concludes with what might be a message for the whole sector: ‘The future of HPC is no longer a monoculture of clusters of commodity hardware but rather a highly diverse ecosystem, populated by different processor technologies, different architectures, and different software solutions. It may be messy but it will be interesting.’
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