- Bull has Become an Indisputable Player in the High-Performance Computing Field in Europe, With Exceptional Growth Over the Past Three Years, Major Contracts, Numerous Records Broken and Significant Investments in R&D
Following today's proposal by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy in the presence of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel during the opening of CeBIT, concerning a joint Franco-German supercomputer programme, Bull wishes to add the following information.
High-Performance Computing (HPC): a major challenge for society...
HPC has become absolutely essential in industry and in university research activities. In aeronautical engineering, energy, climatology, biosciences, financial services, sport, video games... computer modeling and simulation have permeated almost every domain. Computer simulation in particular has helped to reduce product development costs, and ensure that more reliable and innovative products, that consume less energy, get to market more quickly. HPC has become a vital investigative tool for researchers, a major competitive differentiator for companies, and even a fundamental component of State sovereignty.
...and a strategic commitment from Bull
Bull's strategy in scientific computing is inextricably bound up with its historic expertise in complex networks and large-scale IT systems, and with its positioning as 'Architect of an Open World(TM)'. But this strategy really comes into its own in the current market, which is undergoing radical change with the pre-eminence of standard processors and Open Source software. It's a strategy that has led Bull to become one of the pioneers in the design of large-scale supercomputers based on open, standard components and on networked 'cluster' architectures, enabling its customers to take full advantage of high performance open systems that are also highly scalable, and highly competitive compared with the leading proprietary systems.
Although it was still virtually unknown in the world of HPC as recently as 2005, Bull has now won worldwide recognition thanks to Tera-10, the first large-scale supercomputer designed and developed by Bull for the CEA (the French Atomic Energy Authority): ranked in June 2006 as number one in Europe and number five in the world in terms of computing power. Since then, Bull has made a significant contribution to re-energizing the HPC market; by making high-performance computing solutions much more widely available to research and industry alike. With over 100 customers in 15 countries across three continents, Bull gathered significant momentum in HPC during 2007. But the aim is to go much further, and much faster: this year we want to double our revenues from this segment.
The spread of countries and industry sectors covered, as well as the sheer diversity of solutions that Bull has sold, illustrates the reputation that the company now enjoys. From the first major supercomputer installed at the CEA to the latest machine - a system delivering in excess of 25 teraflops, purchased in February 2008 by Cardiff University (Professor Sir Martin Evans FRS being awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007) - with numerous supercomputers delivered to many other higher education establishments in Brazil, France, Spain, Germany... along the way. In industry, prestigious customers including Alcan, Pininfarina, Dassault-Aviation and Alenia have chosen Bull solutions. And Miracle Machines in Singapore recently implemented a Bull supercomputer that will be used to study and help predict tsunamis.
Numerous records broken
Alongside this commercial success, the breaking of a number of world records highlights Bull's expertise in the design and integration of the most advanced technologies. Based on the design of the computer that was the most powerful in Europe and number five in the world in 2006, Bull technologies have achieved some major performance records, particularly for ultra-large file systems, image searches in very large-scale databases (the engines of future research), and the search for new prime numbers. Recently, these systems have also been used to carry out the most extensive simulation ever of the formation of the structures of the Universe.
Significant investments in R&D
Bull has put in place all the human and physical resources needed to create and support an offering that meets the high demands of centers of excellence in scientific and industrial computing.
In order to further develop and grow its business in the HPC marketplace, Bull has recruited new talents: over 100 engineers with expertise in HPC technology have joined Bull in the past two years, to boost the existing teams and specialists trained internally in this field. This recruitment drive has covered every area, from HPC development and benchmarking, to marketing, sales, maintenance and management. These technical teams now make up Europe's largest group of experts in this sector amongst any of the companies involved in HPC.
Bull's acquisition of Serviware in October 2007 is a fundamental part of the company's investment strategy, designed to enhance its presence in the market. This acquisition demonstrates Bull's desire to be involved not only in academic projects, but also in projects of all sizes in industry, the area in which Serviware specializes. This move will widen Bull's commercial footprint, and so increase sales volumes and open up opportunities for current and future offerings, as well as broadening the range of expertise that the Group can now offer its customers and prospects.
Numerous partnerships in the main areas of HPC: from hardware platform design to the implementation of industrial applications
Bull designs its HPC platforms in collaboration with leading partners in their specialist areas; most notably, Intel for processors, Quadrics and Voltaire (Infiniband) for network infrastructures, Data Direct Networks in storage, and CFS for the Lustre file management system. In the field of applications for industry, Bull has formed partnerships with the main software publishers including Fluent/Ansys, CD-Adapco and ESI. Bull is also developing an operating system specifically designed for open, high-performance HPC systems - based on the Red Hat Linux - whose qualities are recognized by the development community.
To prepare the systems of the future, Bull is a founder or member of several important consortia including Talos (which brings together Intel, the CEA, Quadrics and Stuttgart University Computing Center) and Parma, which forms part of ITEA2 and brings together a large number of European research centers to develop the next generation of parallel systems. Finally, Bull is a founder member of the POPS consortium - under the auspices of the SYSTEM@TIC competitiveness cluster based in the Ile de France region, which is developing tomorrow's petaflop-scale systems.
An undisputed major player in the IT industry and in Europe
Europe has long lagged behind in HPC. Reports published in France, such as those by Heon and Sartorius (2005), and those produced by the Academy of Technologies and, subsequently, the Academy of Sciences, certainly helped to bring decision-makers' attention to Europe's position in HPC, and in particular the situation in France. As a result, for a number of years now, and in particular since the groundbreaking moment when Tera-10 was ranked among the world's most powerful supercomputers, this position seems be changing. Many research centers have equipped themselves with supercomputers over recent years, and are now ranked among the pacesetters in HPC. And Bull's renewed momentum is absolutely in line with this positive movement.
With today's announcement, this movement has without doubt been given a considerable boost: European High-Performance computing will emerge considerably stronger as a result enabling its return to the forefront. And Bull is ready to face the European challenge, and act as the key industrial component - whether alone or in partnership - in meeting that challenge. Bull is very proud of the fact that, a number of years ago, the Group identified and anticipated the coming evolutions in computer simulation technologies, and was able to position itself in good time to seize the opportunities this offered, to the greater benefit of its customers. This is a considerable source of pride for the Group, its people, its partners and the customers who have shown their faith in Bull and its role in the race towards the world of virtual computer simulation. But this is also something that the French and European IT industry can be proud of: going from a virtually non-existent presence in HPC a few years ago, to the point where today it now ranks among the best in the world, alongside the very biggest players in the field.