February 11, 2021

SURF starts installation of new national supercomputer

Following a tender procedure, SURF chose Lenovo to build the new national supercomputer. The supercomputer will give scientific research in the Netherlands even more computing power. The system will have a peak performance of 14 petaflop/s, making it the most powerful high-performance computing system in the Netherlands.

Tina Borgbjerg, General Manager Lenovo DCG Benelux and Nordics (on screen) and Jet de Ranitz, CEO SURF

On 1 February, both parties signed an agreement for the construction of the supercomputer. SURF has chosen Lenovo because of its superior proposal in the field of performance and sustainability. With this, the largest amount of scientific research can be facilitated within the available budget. Installation will begin in February 2021 and the new supercomputer is expected to be operational by mid-2021. Like the current supercomputer Cartesius, the new system will be located in the Amsterdam Data Tower at the Amsterdam Science Park.

Computing power of 100,000 laptops

The supercomputer will have almost 10 times more computing power than its predecessor Cartesius: as much as 100,000 interconnected laptops. Researchers use the supercomputer to perform very complex calculations that are impossible with an ‘ordinary’ computer. Moreover, by using the latest generation GPUs (graphics processing units), the system is very well suited to machine learning. At the low precision often used for this purpose, the GPU nodes in the supercomputer even have a peak performance of 90 petaflop/s.

Walter Lioen, Manager Research Services at SURF “In the design of the new supercomputer, usability for scientific research is paramount ”

Less energy consumption and better performance

The new supercomputer will be built on Lenovo ThinkSystem servers with AMD EPYC™ processors (the latest generation, 7H12, and a future generation), and the latest generation NVIDIA GPUs (A100). For SURF an important requirement for the new supercomputer was that it should be as energy efficient as possible. The water-cooling technology used cools the system down by up to 90%, requiring much less air cooling with fans. This reduces energy consumption and increases performance at the same time.

The oldest part of the current national supercomputer Cartesius is now over 7 years old and thus already past its economic life. The system is therefore in need of replacement. The construction of the new supercomputer can be realised thanks to funding of 18 million euros from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (via NWO) and 2 million euros from SURF’s own funds.

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