France has been chosen as the host location for a machine of rare power: a latest-generation supercomputer. Its baptismal name will be that of a French writer, Jules Verne, and it will be installed in the Paris region, at the Very Large Computing Center of the CEA, in Bruyères-le-Châtel in Essonne.
France was in competition with other countries of the European Union to host this supercomputer, the second of this power in Europe with “Jupiter”, which will see the light of day in 2024 in Germany. Jules Verne will be in place in 2025. It will then be a thousand times faster than the “Jean-Zay” supercomputer, currently the most powerful in France.
“The European Commission has implemented a policy, in conjunction with the States, through a joint venture called EuroHPC. It is in a way the armed arm of Europe to provide it with high-performance computing means”, explains a spokesperson for Genci, the Large National Equipment for Intensive Calculation, which carried this French proposal, in collaboration with the Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA) and the Netherlands.
An “exascale” machine
Tools of science and innovation, supercomputers, also called HPCs, are capable of carrying out a very large number of calculations. They are used to design new objects, such as airplanes or innovative materials, or to simulate complex physical phenomena, such as the formation of galaxies or earthquakes, or to make climate forecasts.
In the case of Jules Verne, it is an exascale machine, which means that its power exceeds one billion billion operations per second. After having long been the holy grail of the sector, the symbolic threshold of the Exascale has recently reached by the American Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 2022. Its competitors, such as the French Atos, are on their way to follow it.
These machines represent a shift in scale from current capabilities, such as those of Jean Zay. “The CEA’s Very Large Computing Center also has the Joliot Curie supercomputer, of lesser power” and manufactured by Atos, reports Genci.
“Excellent news for research”
The name of the company that will manufacture “Jules Verne” is not yet known. A call for competition will be launched for this contract. The machine will then be the property of the European joint venture EuroHPC, which is financing half of the 542 million euros planned for the acquisition and operation of the computer for five years. The other half is funded mainly by the French government.
Researchers from all walks of life – not only from the CEA – will be able to have hours of calculation on the machine, after having submitted an application file, and with “obligation of scientific publication” of the results obtained, specifies Genci.
The Minister of Research, Sylvie Retailleau, hailed “excellent news for French and European research”. “The supercomputer will play a key role in ensuring our technological sovereignty and industrial competitiveness,” she said in a statement.