Intel Investing Millions for Supercomputer Research in Europe

Intel and three French research institutes are planning to invest several million euros to create a supercomputing facility to explore the outer limits of high-performance computing. The Exascale Computing Research Center will tackle issues related to weather forecasting and health care.

Intel is planning to invest several million Euros in a new supercomputing research center in Europe that will explore the outer limits of high-performance computing while solving complex problems related to health care and weather forecasting.

The plan, announced Nov. 19, calls for Intel to support the new Exascale Computing Research Center with an investment of millions of euros during the next three years. The exact amount was not given. Three French research institutions also plan to contribute to the center: the French Atomic Energy Commission, the Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University and the French National High-Performance Computing Agency.

The term exascale refers to how many calculations a supercomputer can carry out each second. Currently, the world's fastest supercomputers, such as the Cray Jaguar or the IBM Roadrunner, operate at the petascale level, or 1 quadrillion calculations per second. Exascale supercomputers could run a 1,000 times faster-about 1 million trillion calculations per second.

Other companies, notably IBM, and numerous scientific research centers are also working to bring supercomputers and HPC machines into the "exaflop" era. For example, Cray and Intel announced an agreement in 2008 under which the companies are working together to develop this next generation of supercomputers.

For a look at new supercomputers from Dell, SGI and Cray, click here.

The Exascale center will be part of Intel Labs Europe, which is made up of 19 different labs and 900 researchers throughout Europe. Eventually, the Exascale research lab will employ several dozen researchers.

When the Exascale center is up and running, researchers plan to explore several different areas, including weather forecasting, health care and seismology.

"For example, in health care this capability should enable highly sophisticated genome calculations, enabling individualized patient treatment or simulation of cell interactions to provide new cancer treatments," Intel said in its Nov. 19 statement.

"Another application can be found in seismology, where exascale computing could enable more detailed prediction of ground movement at sites with high security requirements or where frequent movement is expected," Intel said. "In climate modeling, more accurate long-term forecasts and much more detailed local weather forecasts could be made."

Right now, Intel is involved in a legal fight with the European Commission, the antitrust watchdog of the European Union. After the commission fined Intel more than $1 billion early in 2009, Intel plans to appeal the verdict.