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Bull and Inria launch a strategic partnership to tackle the challenges of future exascale supercomputers


Michel Cosnard, Chairman and CEO of Inria (the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control), and Philippe Vannier, Chairman and CEO of Bull, have signed a partnership agreement to carry out joint research in High-Performance Computing (HPC). The main aim of this partnership – between a leading research lab and one of the industry leaders in its field – is to help overcome the challenges posed by the coming generation of ‘exascale’ supercomputers. A roadmap has already been set out, enabling the teams involved to work together on supercomputer architecture, software environments and services.

High-Performance Computing: a key element, shaping the growth of the digital society

As an essential tool for scientific, technological and industrial research, High-Performance Computing has become highly strategic because of its economic implications. In the past, it has been restricted to a limited range of fields such as weather forecasting and the nuclear industry; but now HPC is being used to tackle a much broader range of challenges.
Nowadays, HPC is a key strategic tool in many sectors, for all kinds of organizations: from small design offices to huge global corporations. At the same time, the growing power of networks is driving fundamental changes to IT infrastructures, with resources being brought back into huge centralized Data Centers, a paradigm shift in the way businesses are organized and radical new ways of using IT systems.

High-Performance Computing is becoming essential to the competitiveness of businesses outside traditional sectors (scientific computing); as shown, for example, by the use of transactional HPC for multi-media indexing or predictive connection of embedded systems to the ‘Internet of Things’.
This radical change in computer processing goes hand-in-hand with the need to produce, use and manage massive amounts of data. Eventually, this will result in a paradigm shift on three fronts: in computer research; in the way that both businesses and consumers use computing resources; and in the economic model that underpins the IT industry, affecting everyone from software publishers to computer manufacturers and IT service providers.

Bull and Inria: an already-productive partnership

An initial partnership between the two organizations in the 1990s contributed to a number of successes including the creation of companies such as Kelkoo and TrustedLogic. This partnership continued into the early years of this century, with the creation of the ObjectWeb consortium, which in turn became OW2.
Bull is today a major player in the design of High-Performance Computing systems. Inria, for its part, has clearly identified HPC as one of its priorities, given that it is involved not only in design, but also programming and simulation.
Inria is currently looking to intensify its bilateral relationships with a limited number of strategic partners from industry who are in a position to provide large-scale subjects for research and mobilize the Institute’s teams and projects. The new partnership is part of this approach. It also complements Inria’s existing involvement in this field, especially the ‘HPC/PME’ initiative it launched in conjunction with GENCI and OSEO  in July 2010, which is designed to make it easier for innovative SMEs to access HPC.

For Bull, this will be all about drawing on the best European skills in software for HPC. Designing and developing exascale supercomputers will require very close co-operation between users and manufacturers; and this is the thinking behind Bull’s decision to form this partnership with Inria.
The aim of this framework agreement is to prepare the future architectures for HPC which, in the coming decades, may feature many hundreds of thousands or even millions of processors and process phenomenal amounts of data.
The areas that have been identified, and now form the basis for the shared roadmap, relate to the real challenges faced by HPC including parallel programming environments, fault tolerance and resilience, and optimizing energy management. These are huge challenges, which only powerful alliances like the one being established by Bull and Inria will be able to tackle in the coming years.


Inria, the French national institute for research in computer science and control, is a publicly-owned establishment dedicated to science and technology, operating under the dual authority of the Ministry of Research and the Ministry of Industry. It had an annual budget in 2010 of €217 million, of which 21% represented its own resources. Inria operates eight research centers, in Paris, Sophia Antipolis, Grenoble, Nancy, Rennes, Bordeaux, Lille and Saclay. Its 3,150 researchers are working in over 170 project teams, mostly in collaboration with other bodies, Grandes Ecoles and universities. Altogether, it employs 4,100 people throughout France and has links with 80 teams worldwide. It has been involved in forming over a hundred companies since 1984.

Bull is an Information Technology company, dedicated to helping Corporations and Public Sector organizations optimize the architecture, operations and the financial return of their Information Systems and their mission-critical related business processes.
Bull focuses on open and secure systems, and as such is the only European-based company offering expertise in all the key elements of the IT value chain.

Keywords: Partnership Supercomputers High-Performance Computing Exascale supercomputers Bull HPC