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Europe Aims to Become World Leader in Supercomputing

February 16, 2012

In what is increasingly seen as a global competition for supercomputing capability, the European Commission (EC) this week put forth a plan to double its investment in high performance computing and deploy exascale machines before the end of the decade. The plan would increase Europe’s public HPC spend from €630 million to €1.2 billion and pump a greater share of the money into development, training, and creating “new centres of excellence.”

Some of the impetus to crank up supercomputing investment by the Europeans is being driven by the globalization of the technology. That world-wide competition they face is reflected by the build-out of supercomputing infrastructure across the world. For example, three years ago, the US owned 58 percent of the fastest supercomputers, according to the TOP500 list. Today, that figure is down to 53 percent. Most of the shrinking US share was the result of the rapid growth in top supercomputers in China, which grew from 3 percent of the total nearly 15 percent over the same period.

But competition in the upper echelons of HPC is fierce, and requires continued investment. Europe’s share of the top supers has decreased dramatically since 2008, from 30.6 percent to 20.6 percent, and has already been eclipsed by Asia, which has soared to a 23.6 percent share. In the fast-moving supercomputing biz, you can’t be complacent; there are actually four fewer countries in the TOP500 club in 2011 than there were in 2008.