HERMIT and SUSE – Europe's Fastest Civil Petaflop Supercomputer …

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High Performance Computing (HPC) is used to solve the most demanding computational and data-intensive problems. It is correlated to the IT industry that provides tools for dealing with complex computational tasks that require high processing speeds within a single computer architecture in order to be completed within an acceptable timeframe and at an acceptable quality. This is made possible using “supercomputers” – powerful machines capable of performing a huge numbers of operations per second.

Due to the evolution of both lower cost hardware and enterprise class Linux distributions, the HPC market has rapidly changed moving away from RISC/UNIX symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) servers and proprietary cluster platforms, toward Linux industry standard servers and clusters. Linux has become the HPC and cluster operating system of choice, thanks to its scalability and performance capabilities, its similarity to UNIX, and the wide variety of open-source software and development tools available.

Nowadays Linux is dominating the list of the Top500 supercomputers – more than 91 percent of them are running Linux (and SUSE is the leading “flavor” …). The most powerful HPC systems that “broke the sound barrier” of one Petaflop (a petaflop is the ability of a computer to do one quadrillion floating point operations per second) during the past years have all been located first in the US and more recently in Asia. It seemed Europe had lost connection. But only at first sight.

Europe woke up in time, realizing that it would need to continue to utilize HPC solutions in order remain competitive versus other regions. A key problem for Europe´s HPC ecosystem was the fragmentation of its vendor base and research organizations, with a supply chain scattered across various countries with various languages, research funding sources, programs, and end-user groups. And Europe realized there was a need for coordination. In consequence, the organizations PROSPECT and PRACE had been founded to address these issues by the creation of a “unified” Technology Platform.

PROSPECT stands for “Promotion of Supercomputers and Petacomputing Technology” and is a European alliance of several companies in the computer industry, as well as renowned research institutions and universities and HPC sites. PRACE, the “Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe”, is a non-profit pan-european organization with currently 24 member countries, and provides access to distributed persistent pan-European world class HPC computing and data management resources and services. Expertise in efficient use of the resources is available through participating centers throughout Europe. PROSPECT and PRACE work hand in hand to establish the basis for a unified European HPC technology platform and ecosystem. They worked hard to get Europe to the next level.

And the efforts show results: on February 24, the fastest civil super computer in Europe with the name HERMIT was inaugurated at the High Performance Computing Center (HLRS) in Stuttgart, Germany.  HERMIT is a CRAY XE6 system with a peak performance of one Petaflop. It is designed for sustained application performance and highly scalable applications. Currently, HERMIT ranks 12th at the Top500 list – but among the industrially used supercomputers, it is even number 1 worldwide. Guess upon which operating system it is based?
RRRRRINGGGG – you hit the mark: Europe’s fastest civil Petaflop supercomputer’s operating system environment is based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1!

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Meike Chabowski
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Meike Chabowski

Meike Chabowski works as Documentation Strategist at SUSE. Before joining the SUSE Documentation team, she was Product Marketing Manager for Enterprise Linux Servers at SUSE, with a focus on Linux for Mainframes, Linux in Retail, and High Performance Computing. Prior to joining SUSE more than 20 years ago, Meike held marketing positions with several IT companies like defacto and Siemens, and was working as Assistant Professor for Mass Media. Meike holds a Master of Arts in Science of Mass Media and Theatre, as well as a Master of Arts in Education from University of Erlangen-Nuremberg/ Germany, and in Italian Literature and Language from University of Parma/Italy.