Technology

HPC5: the next generation

 By Eniday Staff

Ferrera Erbognone, a small town in the northern Italian province of Pavia, has been struck by a rising popularity in the last few years, being home to one of the most cutting-edge computing centres in the world: Eni’s Green Data Center, also known as “Lomellina Valley” – although any reference to Silicon Valley is, of course, purely incidental…

All the geophysical and seismic prospecting data produced by Eni worldwide ends up here, in this “land of the supercomputer”. It is then processed using highly complex mathematical models that can generate an accurate analysis of the subsoil and detect oil and gas reserves up to 10-15 km below the surface, over thousands of square kilometres. Now the Green Data Center is ready to welcome a new supercomputing system: HPC5, an advanced version of the existing – and already extraordinarily powerful – HPC4. Due to be completed by early 2020, HPC5 will in fact triple the Green Data Center’s computing power, from 18.6 to 52 petaflops, equivalent to 52 million billion mathematical operations in a second!
To give you an idea, if each of the 7.5 billion people on Earth had a personal computer able to carry out 7 million mathematical operations per second – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – then together all the people on the planet would be able to generate a comparable computing power to HPC5.
Eni has always been in the front line of technological innovation. Now that it owns this level of computing power, it is one of the most advanced companies in the global energy industry and is able to make enormous finds, such as the Zohr and Mozambique gas field discoveries, made possible by HPC4.

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Ferrera Erbognone's Green Data Center is ready to host the successor to the HPC4

HPC5’s peta profile

The new HPC5 supercomputer has been designed according to the same philosophy as its predecessors, based on hybrid cluster technology (CPU+GPU), which is now recognised as a benchmark and is widely copied in the world’s biggest computing centres. Aficionados will be delighted to know that HPC5 has 1,820 Dell EMC PowerEdge C4140 servers, each with two Intel Gold 6252 24-core processors and four GPU NVIDIA Tesla V100 accelerators. The servers will be connected through an Infiniband Mellanox HDR ultra-high-performance network with a speed of 200 Gbit/s and a full non-blocking topology that ensures efficient and direct connection between every server. HPC5 also comes with a high-performance 15-petabyte storage system (200 GB/s aggregate read/write speeds).
But what use is a supercomputing “monster” like this to an energy company? Simple: it allows the company to “see” into the bowels of the earth, to reveal its most hidden secrets and produce energy… But that’s not all. As well as generating energy, Eni is committed to avoiding energy waste. The HPC5, which is air-cooled, allows you to minimize the consumption for air conditioning system. These are the features that make HPC5 the ideal candidate for exploring the “energy of tomorrow”. So on the one hand we will have field exploration and simulation, while on the other we will have renewables (molecular modelling of photoactive systems, OPV and LSC), fluid modelling for BluEnergy (ISWEC, PB3) and will also study magnetic fusion (in concert with MIT and Italy’s National Research Council, CNR).

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The HPC4 will work alongside the new HPC5 until the sixth generation supercomputer is available

The two big brothers

The HPC5 will become the world’s most powerful non-governmental supercomputing infrastructure. Working day and night, the combined HPC4 and HPC5 computing systems will reach a total peak of 70 Petaflops/s. With this in mind, next to the Green Data Center, a field of solar panels has been built that produce 1 MW of power used to partially compensate for the increase in energy required by the machines.
Steve Jobs once said that the computer was a bicycle for our minds. In the same vein, we might say that for Eni the supercomputer is the power of the mind taken to the nth degree!

READ MORE: The battle of supercomputers by Andrea Signorelli

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Eniday Staff