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High-performance computing

Marie Gallas - 13/01/2011

Inria and Bull extend their partnership in high-performance computing


Inria and Bull extend their partnership in high-performance computing

On 11 January 2011, Michel Cosnard, Chairman and CEO of Inria and Philippe Vannier, Chairman and CEO of Bull, sealed an agreement intended to extend their partnership in the field of high-performance computing (HPC).  The main issue for this partnership, between a research laboratory and a manufacturer that are leaders in their fields, is to help meet the challenges posed by the next generation of exaflop supercomputers. A roadmap has already been drawn up enabling the teams involved to work on supercomputer architecture, software environments and services.

High-performance computing, a decisive factor in the development of the digital society.

An essential tool in scientific, technological and industrial research, high-performance computing has become strategic owing to its economic implications. Previously used by a limited number of fields such as meteorology or nuclear power, HPC meets an increasingly broad range of needs in many sectors and for all kinds of organisation, from small consultancies to globe-spanning corporations. At the same time, the growing power of networks is now leading to fundamental changes in the organisation of computing infrastructures, with resources being brought back into large computer centres, a paradigm shift in businesses' organisational models and new usage patterns.

High-performance computing is becoming an essential component in the competitiveness of businesses outside traditional sectors (scientific computing), as is shown for example by transactional HPC (multimedia indexing) or the predicted connection of embedded systems to the internet (the 'Internet of Things').

This change in the computer processing model is accompanied by the need to be able to produce, use and manage massive amounts of data. In the long term, this constitutes a triple paradigm shift, in computing research, in business and consumer use of computing resources, and for the business model for the IT industry in general, from software publishers, to computer manufacturers and service providers.

Bull and Inria: an already-productive partnership

During the 1990s, the Dyade joint venture between Bull and Inria had many spin-offs, such as the formation of the companies Kelkoo and Trusted Logic. This partnership continued into the next decade, through the formation of the ObjectWeb consortium, which in turn became OW2.

Bull is now a major name in the design of high-performance computer systems. Inria, meanwhile, has clearly identified HPC as one of its priorities, given that it is involved simultaneously in the fields of design, programming and simulation.
Inria is looking to intensify its bilateral relationships with a limited number of strategic industry partners, in a position to provide large-scale subjects for research and galvanise the Institute's project teams. This partnership is part of the same philosophy. In addition, it complements Inria's involvement in this field, especially the HPC/PME initiative launched jointly with GENCI (France's high performance computing organisation) and OSEO (French start-up assistance body) in July 2010 to ease innovative SME's access to HPC.

For Bull, it means making use of the best European skills in the field of HPC software. Designing and building exaflop supercomputers in fact requires close cooperation between users and manufacturers. This is the backdrop to Bull forming this partnership with Inria.

This purpose of this framework agreement is to prepare the future architectures for high-performance computing, which could, in the coming decades, combine hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of processors and process vast swathes of data. The fields which have been identified and which now form the basis of a shared roadmap relate to the challenges facing HPC, such as parallel programming environments, fault tolerance and resilience, or indeed optimised energy management. These are major challenges which only alliances like the one established between Inria and Bull will be able to tackle in the coming years.

Keywords: Supercomputing HPC High performance computing