EuroHPC Summit brings Europe’s finest people together, but 3 big challenges are now on their HPC tables

23 April 2024

EuroHPC JU is a joint initiative between the EU, European countries and private partners to develop a World Class Supercomputing Ecosystem in Europe”. That is they subsidise 50% of the costs of creating a supercomputer within Europe in return for 50% of the compute time made available for researchers, scientists and start-up companies. They currently have 9 sites available throughout Europe of which 3 are in the Top10 supercomputers (Nov 2023). They continue to make the best systems available to researchers and scientists in Europe, with 174 research projects currently taking advantage of these systems, plus many other projects for benchmarking and architecture analysis.

I was there to advocate for SYCL and oneAPI – with heterogeneous computing a particularly powerful solution for the new and innovative hardware demanded for AI acceleration. This hardware is being pioneered by many of the companies in attendance at EuroHPC. With open standards, these accelerators can have the benefits of a mature, standards-based toolchain and indeed, the European Processor Initiative has focused not just on technologies from Arm, but from the open RISC-V ISA also. At Codeplay, we are involved in the SYCLOPS project which brings together the RISC-V and SYCL standards for the first time, and you can find more on this project here.

The Summit has 790 registrations with around 400 physically attending. This is up 40% from last year, showing the growing momentum. This year’s summit clearly focused on 3 major topics:

  • Inclusion of AI

  • Quantum compute

  • Focus on skills…brains, brains, brains

In his talk during the plenary session on HPC Needs & Opportunities, Bob Sorensen of Hyperion highlighted some key points:

- Quantum in Europe is considered inevitable, US still treats it as research. It is needed for the insatiable need for compute.

- one size no longer fits all, combinations of processors, memories and interconnect

- each user uses different software platforms

Therefore, Bob agrees with the EU mission to embrace quantum compute. Indeed, EuroHPC is investing in agreements with six sites across Europe to host & operate EuroHPC quantum computers. Each of these systems embraces different approaches, and so in this way EuroHPC is spreading their investments to support all approaches.

EuroHPC will evolve with AI, especially with the massive change in Generative AI, but discussions are ongoing on what that will mean to their strategy. LUMI already states their system is fully loaded now with over 50% of workloads tagged as AI – and by the way, our oneAPI plugins are now available on the LUMI machine. iGenius says they need increased compute for their work and talent to benefit their AI startup.

A recurring theme was the skills shortages in the industry - with this problem specifically around quantity since quality is already excellent. Numerous suggestions include evolving existing software engineers towards HPC and AI and encouraging more women into the industry (currently ~22%). But a dedicated session on the final day emphasized more traditional methods of making the technology exciting to school kids. There are so many touch points using the technology today so that barriers to entry should be accessible. ChatGPT was even embraced as an education tool, for example as your tutor that progresses at a comfortable pace (before getting it to write your code for you!). But it’s not just using the tools, the construction of supercomputers requires a high calibre of computing skills.

From the summit, there were a few other key topics discussed:

Ethical AI - how can this be implemented? The EU is a global leader and wants to ensure that our rights are protected, that there is fairness and transparency, and that user safety is prioritised before such a system appears in the market. GenAI is a is a challenge here with hallucinations sometimes delivering misleading and inaccurate outputs which will feed into further misinformation. The EU AI Act is admirable, but it must start somewhere and has the challenge of catching up with the fast advancements in AI.

The immediacy of HPC is another demand – for example, weather forecasting or banking cannot wait hours for resources so EuroHPC has a challenge in delivering for these industries. Will these sectors depend on shared resources, or will they be forced to host their private systems?

In conclusion, EuroHPC is a fantastic initiative and focuses funds on highly relevant systems to make Europe a leader in HPC. Steering towards AI in HPC systems makes sense and maybe this should have been embraced earlier. Quantum is an exciting opportunity and it’s great to see fantastic investment increasing systems for evaluation.

But the biggest gap to achieve any of this is brains, brains, brains – we must all do our bit to embrace the youth with these exciting technologies and steer them to become involved.

Codeplay Software Ltd has published this article only as an opinion piece. Although every effort has been made to ensure the information contained in this post is accurate and reliable, Codeplay cannot and does not guarantee the accuracy, validity or completeness of this information. The information contained within this blog is provided "as is" without any representations or warranties, expressed or implied. Codeplay Sofware Ltd makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information in this post.
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Charles Macfarlane