Path Finders for Future Supercomputing Deployed

This summer, pilot systems from Cray and a consortium consisting of IBM and NVIDIA were deployed at JSC. Their installation is part of an innovative procurement of R&D services started within the Human Brain Project (HBP) for developing technologies needed to realise future supercomputers for brain research. This application domain foresees a future need for the interactive steering of these computers. This not only leads to new usage models, but also different architectural requirements. One particular challenge is that large data volumes need to be rapidly analysed and visualized in parallel to an ongoing simulation. This means that the computers of the future must handle even more data than the enormous amounts they currently have to.

By means of a pre-commercial procurement tender, Forschungszentrum Jülich, supported by different HBP partners, awarded contracts to competing suppliers to develop new solutions. To evaluate the suitability of these solutions for brain research within a relevant environment, the contractors had been asked to design and deploy pilot systems.

Cray installed JULIA (a name derived from Jülich and glia cell), a system based on the latest generation Xeon Phi processors interconnected via Intel’s new network technology Omni-Path, in July. By integrating DataWarp nodes with large amounts of non-volatile memory, the system is able to retain large amounts of data within the system. In September, IBM and NVIDIA installed JURON (derived from Jülich and neuron), a system based on fat nodes with new versions of the POWER8 processors and multiple NVIDIA GPUs of the new Pascal generation. Within a node they are all interconnected via the new NVLink technology. In this system, non-volatile memory is distributed across all nodes, but can be addressed globally through a newly developed software layer. For details, see

Having completed the installation, both systems will now be evaluated by neuroscientists within the HBP and experts from the supercomputing centres involved.
(Contact: Prof. Dirk Pleiter,

JSC News, No. 244, 11 October 2016

Last Modified: 11.08.2022