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N°34  |  February   2009
Hot topics
Thanks to the new Bull supercomputer for the Jülich Research Center, research into nuclear fusion will have access to European computer simulation resources for the first time.


  • The new Bull HPC-FF1 supercomputer with 100 Teraflops-capacity will host applications for the European Union Fusion community. Alongside the Bull JuRoPA supercomputer2 ordered in 2008, it will form an integrated computing platform delivering more than 300 Teraflops of processing power, taking a lead-position among Europe’s supercomputers
  • HPC-FF will help speed up research into nuclear fusion, and put Europe in the lead when it comes to providing scientific support to the ITER project

Forschungszentrum Jülich in Germany has chosen Bull to supply a 100 Teraflops-capacity supercomputer to host applications for the European Union’s Fusion project.
The main aim of the EU Fusion project is to speed up research into nuclear fusion – a high-potential way of generating energy which should, in the long-term, enable us to meet the challenges both of sustainable development and the disappearance of fossil fuels.

From the moment it is deployed, the Bull HPC-FF supercomputer will be used to validate the very latest nuclear fusion computer simulation models. It will enable research in the area of plasma turbulence, one of the major challenges confronting physicists today. The new supercomputer will also be used in the areas of fast particle physics, which dominates plasmas in thermonuclear combustion, and materials physics.

The Jülich Supercomputing Centre is proud to host and operate the Bull HPC-FF for the benefit of the fusion community. Our operation and support teams will assure the most effective usage of this best-of-breed technology delivered by Bull,” said Thomas Lippert, leading scientist and director of the Jülich supercomputing centre.

Rated by HPCWire as one of the five global companies to watch in 2009, and the only non-American firm – having won 120 customers in 15 countries across three continents in under four years – Bull is becoming one of the front runners in the world of computer simulation,” explained Didier Lamouche, Bull Chairman and CEO. “We are honored by the JülichResearchCenter’s decision, which means Bull will be a major contributor to the European Fusion Community. This represents a major leap forward in the development of a complete European ecosystem in computer simulation,” he continued.

The Bull HPC-FF supercomputer will be a key component in the preparation of the IFERC (International Fusion Energy Research Center) project: an international Data Center being established as part of a collaboration between Europe and Japan in relation to the ITER program. In particular, the Bull HPC-FF supercomputer will enable the Fusion community to prepare for using a Petaflops-scale supercomputer destined to equip the IFERC in years to come. The simulations it will carry out will enable the models developed by researchers to be refined, and will guarantee the ITER can be ‘utilized’ under optimum conditions: a vital imperative given that each ITER experiment will cost in the region of €500,000.

The HPC-FF supercomputer, whose usage will be organized under the terms of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) will enable us to make progress on a number of key scientific questions, and to speed up research into nuclear fusion,” Jérôme Paméla, Leader of EFDA explained. “These new resources will position Europe amongst the scientific leaders when it comes to supporting the ITER project.”

An integrated computing platform delivering over 300 Teraflops

The Fusion community will not only have access to over 100 Teraflops of power provided by the new HPC-FF supercomputer, but it will also be able to tap into additional power on demand from the Bull JuRoPA supercomputer, ordered from Bull by the Jülich center in 2008. The two supercomputers – Bull HPC-FF and Bull JuRoPA – will be installed by Bull during the first quarter of 2009, to create a computing platform delivering more than 300 Teraflops overall, which will position it as one of the group of most powerful supercomputers in Europe.

The HPC-FF computer opens the way to substantial progress in several fields of research into fusion controlled by magnetic confinement; including turbulent transport, magneto hydrodynamic instabilities, plasma/wall interaction, heating systems and materials modeling. This is important to prepare for the ITER scientific program under the best possible conditions. Indeed the modeling of ITER plasmas requires very fine grids, and this requires very extensive computer resources.” explained Xavier Garbet, Research Director, and member of the HPC-FF office.
Also the design of the DEMO demonstrator, which is the next step after ITER, will lead to the development of new materials. Modeling these materials will also require very powerful computing tools. Moreover the HPC-FF will involve experts in applied mathematics and computer sciences, whose skills are needed for the development and use of the codes capable of running a machine of this class. Finally the HPC-FF will be useful to prepare the European scientific community for the future IFERC computer, which will be built at Rokkasho (Japan) and is due to go into operation in 2012.”

Designed to support a wide variety of applications

The Bull HPC-FF supercomputer has been designed to support a wide variety of applications. It will include 540 Bull NovaScale® R422 E2 servers, featuring the next generation of Intel® Xeon® processors. The configuration includes 1,080 processing nodes giving a total of 8,640 computing cores, each with 3GB of memory. The high density of the technologies used will enable the entire supercomputer to be housed in just 20 racks. Liquid cooling doors, developed by Bull, provide efficient management of thermal dissipation at an optimum cost compared with more traditional, air-cooling mechanisms.

The 1,080 computing nodes are interconnected via a network based on InfiniBand® QDR (Quad Data Rate) technology, delivering some of the fastest connections on the market. A DataDirect Networks, Inc (DDN) 300TB storage sub-system is also linked to the new configuration

This new contract confirms Bull’s ability to meet European challenges in high-performance computer simulation. It also affirms Bull’s position as a major player in this area, particularly as a result of its partnerships with other players in the IT industry and from the world of research. Having successfully predicted and anticipated the changes in computer simulation technologies a number of years ago – particularly the growing importance of standard components and open architectures – Bull is now positioning itself as a leader in this field, both as designer and systems architect, as a hardware supplier and systems integrator. This means the company is a remarkable force for European industry, delivering the greatest benefits for all its customers. 

1 HPC-FF: High-Performance Computing For Fusion
2 JuRoPA: Jülich Research on Petaflops Architectures

About the Fusion community

The Fusion community brings together the largest European research laboratories working in the areas of nuclear fusion and high-energy physics. Its members include, most notably, the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics) and the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Jülich Research Center), in Germany, the Institut de Recherche sur la Fusion par confinement Magnétique (Institute for Research into Magnetic Confinement Fusion) part of the French Atomic Energy Authority (the CEA), the Laboratorio Nacional de Fusión del CIEMAT (National Fusion Laboratory) in Spain, the Centro Ricerche ENEA Frascati (Frascati Research Center of the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment) in Italy and UKAEA-Culham in the UK. One element of the research is being coordinated as part of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA).

About Forschungszentrum Jülich

Forschungszentrum Jülich pursues cutting-edge interdisciplinary research on solving the grand challenges facing society in the fields of health, energy and the environment, and also information technologies. In combination with its two key competencies – physics and supercomputing – work at Jülich focuses on both long-term, fundamental and multidisciplinary contributions to science and technology as well as on specific technological applications. With about 4400 staff, Jülich – a member of the Helmholtz Association – is one of the largest research centers in Europe.


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