Arm low-power processors dominate the mobile world of smartphones, tablets, and embedded IoT devices. With datacentres consuming ever more power, the idea of using highly energy-efficient Arm chips in servers is enticing, especially for energy-hungry High Performance Computing (HPC) configurations. As early as 2011, several pioneering European companies and institutions recognized the tremendous potential offered by embedded processor technology, and decided to unite into the Mont-Blanc project to investigate the usage of low-power Arm processors for HPC. Three successive projects – the latest one running until end 2018 – largely contributed to demonstrate the viability of Arm-based HPC clusters, create and consolidate a matching software ecosystem, and issue recommendations for an Exascale Arm-based system.
The current phase, started in December 2017 and called Mont-Blanc 2020, aims to contribute to the development of a European processor for Big Data and High Performance Computing. It will deliver IP that will be used in the European Processor Initiative. To ensure its outcome is economically viable, Mont-Blanc 2020 also explores the reuse of the building blocks it defines to serve other markets than pure HPC – e.g. embedded processors for the automotive industry.