There’s already a new supercomputer on the map that will rival the world’s most powerful machines, and it’s in Barcelona. The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, inaugurated this Thursday with the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, the Marenostrum 5, the last of the new series of supercomputers, developed by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC -CNS). The machine, which occupies a 1,000 square meter glass room in the new building built two years ago next to the old Torre Girona, in the Barcelona district of Pedralbes, cost 200 million euros over five years and is financed by the European Commission by 50%, Spain by 35.13%, Portugal by 5% and Turkey by 9.87%.
Sánchez and Aragonès, accompanied by the director of the BSC, Mateo Valero, and other leaders of political and academic institutions, together turned on the supercomputer in an event broadcast live in the auditorium. The machine, with a cooling system that occupies another 2,000 square meters, then began to emit its characteristic noise. In parliament, Sánchez linked this inauguration to that which saw, 175 years ago, the first railway line between Barcelona and Mataró deployed on the peninsula. “Barcelona is once again the gateway to the scientific revolution, but at that time, although it was large-scale, it arrived late: England already had 7,500 kilometers of roads. Today, in the fourth industrial revolution, we are able to lead the technological revolution,” said Sánchez. The President of the Government underlined that Marenostrum 5 is an example of “collaboration and desire for industrialization and digital transformation of Europe”. “Europe can and must achieve autonomy in chip manufacturing,” said Sánchez, who also gave a nod to Father Aragonès due to the political situation the country is going through: “Scientists are looking for solutions to problems that don’t seem to exist. have, and this, president, we must apply it too. Previously, Aragonès had highlighted the link of the supercomputer with the scientific network of Catalonia and the vocation of the BSC at the service of citizens: “It represents a step forward in the provision of first-rate infrastructure that will allow progress in research and development. European autonomy.
Valero, acclaimed by the public for being one of the main promoters of this project, emphasized that the key word is “collaboration”. “The BSC is the result of many years of intense collaboration between the Spanish government, the Generalitat and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. We went from 60 workers to 1,000, and even though we only have 30% women and we need to improve this indicator, we can say that we generate, retain and attract talent,” said Valero, who described the Marenostrum 5 as an “ideal” machine: “With the most powerful accelerators in the world and enormous storage capacity, we will be able to advance projects such as the generation of a human digital twin,” he explained , one of the projects that will allow aspects of health and biology to be monitored.
The scientific community placed high expectations on this supercomputer and filled the auditorium where the presentation took place. No wonder: this machine is 10,000 times more powerful than the Marenostrum 1, inaugurated almost 20 years ago, and 23 times more powerful than the Marenostrum 4. The fifth version of the supercomputer has a maximum total performance of 314 petaflops, or what she is. likewise, a capacity to perform up to 314 trillion calculations per second. The Marenostrum 5 joins the Lumi (Finland) and Leonardo (Italy) supercomputers among the most disruptive machines in Europe. Its power will provide Europe with the most advanced technologies and enable scientific advances in many areas, from artificial intelligence to the most exhaustive simulations of climate change.
The supercomputer features technology from Eviden, the supplier selected after the tender, and also integrates technology from Lenovo, IBM, Intel and Nvidia, and German consulting firm Partec participated in its installation. It has two different systems: one part is dedicated to general-purpose classical computing, and the other is an accelerated partition, in which more ambitious calculations can be performed to push the frontiers of knowledge. Both systems are among the top 20 supercomputers in the world, ranking 19th and 8th, respectively.
The BSC supercomputer has the no less particularity of being publicly owned, which allows it to compete with private initiatives while maintaining independence in the selection of projects. Its use is in such high demand that two out of three projects that want to use the machine to do their calculations are left behind, because there are no longer assigned hours. The hours of use of the supercomputer are distributed between the projects of the countries which have invested in the machine, and according to their percentage of participation. And they are awarded through competitive calls and with peer review.
Valero, however, recalled that success is not without challenges: “The bad news is that Europe does not design high-performance chips. Supercomputers do not have chips designed in Europe, this is something that must be changed and it is time”, said the director of the BSC, who thanked the government and the Generalitat for “the ambition to allocate so many resources”, transmitted recently times thanks to the Loss on the electronic chip, thanks to European funds.
The Marenostrum 5 has a capacity that leaves far behind its great-great-grandfather, the Marenostrum 1, located 20 years ago in the chapel of Torre Girona, and which was at the time the fourth fastest in the world. Each chip of the Marenostrum 5, measuring eight square centimeters, has more power than the entire Marenostrum 1. The new supercomputer also has a large storage capacity, with 650 PB (the Marenostrum 4 had a capacity 15 in.) And yet another dizzying comparison: the calculations that the Marenostrum 5 does in an hour would take a mid-range laptop 46 years to complete.
One of the projects for which the Marenostrum 5 will be key is the European Union’s Destination Earth project, which aims to create a complete virtual replica of planet Earth to predict the effects of climate change. It will also address complex artificial intelligence problems, generating massive language models by training much larger neural networks than those currently available. Or, it will be key in medical research projects, with the development of new drugs, vaccines or simulations of virus propagation. Finally, in the coming months, the Marenostrum 5 will be integrated with two quantum computers, which will be installed in the chapel of the Torre Girona, where the four previous versions of the Marenostrum have been located until now. The first quantum computer of the Spanish Supercomputing Network will be installed there and one of the first European quantum computers developed by the European Quantum Computing Network. Thus, the Marenostrum 5 will end up being composed of 4 interconnected computers of the latest generation. And the future? Valero explained that they have been thinking about Marenostrum 6 for two years: “I hope it will be the first supercomputer with all European technology.”
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