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Report on Mont-Blanc at ISC 2017

August 2, 2017

In June 2017 again, Mont-Blanc was in Frankfurt to take part to ISC, the largest European event for High Performance Computing, Networking and Storage. We had a booth, but our involvement went far beyond that. Here is the full story.




Joint booth with SAGE project

This year we shared booth K-415 with our friends from the SAGE project – another Exascale project funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. Visitor traffic was very active on our joint booth, and both projects are keen to collaborate again at ISC 2018. A raffle helped attract visitors well beyond our usual circle, with two Seagate external hard drives (contributed by SAGE) and two Raspberry Pi 3 starter kits (contributed by Mont-Blanc) to win


Dibona, our new prototype, on show for the first time

Our key exhibit was the board designed for our new prototype, which was shown for the first time at ISC. Our new prototype is based on 64 bit ThunderX2 processors from Cavium®, relying on the ARM® v8 instruction set. The exhibited board is the foundation for a compute node. Three such nodes will be integrated side by side in a Bull Sequana Blade. The prototype leverages the Bull Sequana infrastructure, including Direct Liquid Cooling – cooling with warm water.

The full configuration will ultimately include 48 computes nodes, ie. 96 Cavium® ThunderX2 CPUs, or 3000 cores.

The new Mont-Blanc prototype will be named Dibona, after the Dibona peak in the French Alps, and it will start operation after the summer.



Mont-Blanc prototype to be productized by Atos

Interest in our new ARM prototype was considerably boosted by the announcement made by Atos at ISC. Atos issued a Press Release on the day of the opening: Atos expands range of supercomputers to include ARM processors with new Bull Sequana X1310 – detailing Mont-Blanc’s pioneering work in favour of ARM for HPC. The Mont-Blanc prototype board was also exhibited on the Atos booth. As a journalist put it: “This really is an outstanding achievement. It is not often that a European project directly gives rise to a commercial product.”

The ISC Press Tour stops by the Mont-Blanc booth

Another proof of the intense interest in ARM-based systems is the fact that the ISC Press Tour had elected to stop by the Mont-Blanc booth. Dissemination leader Pascale Bernier-Bruna and project coordinator Etienne Walter were on hand to present the history and achievements of the project to a group of journalists and analysts.

Thunderchip team Fan Favourite in the Student Cluster Competition

At the other end of the show floor, dozens of students were busy getting the most out of their clusters, for the ISC Student Cluster Competition. Mont-Blanc was sponsoring the Thunderchip team from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. They were coached by Filippo Mantovani. And they did very well: for the second year, they won the Fan Favourite award, with a record number of votes (thank you Mont-Blanc partners for your support 🙂 ). More information:

GoingARM workshop

Finally, Mont-Blanc was an important contributor to the GoingARM workshop – standing room only in the workshop room. ISC team: please plan to allocate a larger room to us next time!

Not only was this workshop organized by Mont-Blanc partner ARM (Roxana Rusitoru), but its program also included Filippo Mantovani (BSC), and Patrick Schiffmann (AVL).

If you want to know more about the contents of the workshop, read this article by the workshop organizers:

See you at ISC 2018 – we have already reserved a booth!