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Innovation Comes In Many Shapes And Forms
Innovation is at the hearth of E4. Listing in this blog the many disruptive innovative ideas and products that E4 has brought to the market is pointless. Just ask to our customers or look at the markets where our solutions are in the critical path. E4 looks always forward, and the most interesting innovation is what our talented engineers are designing based on the input provided by our customers. Because the source of E4’s innovation is coming from the real-world requirements (and sometimes the dreams) of our customers, who must be prepared to address the (technical, business, environmental) challenges of the next years. Let’s be honest, 2021 in the EU will be the turning-point year, when we will leave behind the unfortunate circumstances related to COVID-19 and the recovery will kick in in full swing. There will be obstacle to overcome and challenges to be taken, of course. E4 is ready the play a critical role in those markets and areas where it is already a leader to support its customers in the recovery.
In 2019 and 2020, innovation has taken different shapes.
At the European level, E4 is a member of the ongoing European Processor Initiative. The European Processor Initiative (EPI) is a project currently implemented under the first stage of the Framework Partnership Agreement signed by the Consortium with the European Commission, whose aim is to design and implement a roadmap for a new family of low-power European processors for extreme scale computing, high-performance Big-Data and a range of emerging applications. The specific challenge of the topic announced that the EC’s aim was to support the creation of a world-class European High-Performance Computing and Big Data ecosystem built on two exascale computing machines, which rank in the first 3 places of the world. Such a processor would help “foster an HPC ecosystem capable of developing new European technology such as low-power HPC chips“. EPI consortium was chosen and proceeded to sign an agreement with the European Commission and plan the first stage of development.
The project will:
- Develop the roadmap for the full length of the EPI Initiative
- Develop the first generation of technologies through a co-design approach (IPs for general-purpose HPC processors, for accelerators, for trust chips, software stacks and boards)
- Tape-out of the first-generation chip by integrating the IPs developed
- Validate this chip in the HPC context and in the automative context using a demonstration platform.
The project aims to deliver a high-performance, low-power processor, implementing vector instructions and specific accelerators with high bandwidth memory access. The EPI processor will also meet high security and safety requirements. This will be achieved through intensive use of simulation, development of a complete software stack and tape-out in the most advanced semiconductor process node. SGA1 will provide a competitive chip that can effectively address the requirements of the HPC, AI, automotive and trusted IT infrastructure markets.
This proposal comes as a result of European strategic plans to support the next generation of computing and data infrastructures, as EU efforts are now synchronized in establishment of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, a legal and funding entity which will enable pooling of the Union’s and national resources on High-Performance Computing to acquire, build and deploy in Europe the most powerful supercomputers of the world.
In order to spearhead these efforts, the EPI project is established as one of the cornerstones of this strategic plan – it gathers 27 partners from 10 European countries to develop the processor and ensure that the key competence of high-end chip design remains in Europe. European scientists and industry will be able to access exceptional levels of energy-efficient computing performance. Because of its participation in EPI, E4 has first-hand access to the first-generation microprocessor (codename Rhea) and to the Test Chip, the first implementation of the EPI accelerator.
As a follow-on of the participation in the Framework Partnership Agreement in European low-power microprocessor technologies, E4 is currently a member of the consortium for the second phase of the design and development of European low-power processors and related technologies for extreme-scale, high-performance big-data, AI and emerging applications, in accordance with the research roadmap defined in the respective FPA.
In particular, the proposal builds on the results of the Phase 1 of the European Processor Initiative (EPI), and is expected to cover the following topics:
Development of the second generation of low-power general purpose processing system units.
- Generate the functional and non-functional requirements (using representative HPC and big-data benchmarks, emerging applications specifications (in the automotive sector for example), and targeting maximum energy-efficiency and reliability;
- design the architecture of the processing system units;
- verify, tape-out, validate, test and bring up the processing system units;
- develop the required firmware and system software leveraging, as much as possible, on open source efforts and solutions.
Development of the second generation of low-power processing system units for application acceleration.
- Generate their functional and non-functional requirements (using relevant representative HPC and big data benchmarks and emerging applications) and design their architecture to accelerate specific HPC and big data applications, including as edge and embedded automotive applications or other emerging applications. The applications must have high-volume potential. Processing units will be realized as standalone components, distributed collaborating systems or IP-blocks, and will include stand-alone open RISC V hardware approaches for accelerators with connectivity not limited to the EPI processing units, addressing a large number of application areas. Work in this topic is required to interface with topic a) in order to achieve maximum interoperability (including IP-block interfacing) and roadmap synchronisation.
Validation of the first generation of low-power processing system units developed in Phase 1 (and Phase 2).
- Finalize the required firmware and system software leveraging, as much as possible, on open source efforts and solutions;
- development and integration of the boards/blades and test benches to demonstrate the processing units and accelerators developed in Phase 1 (and Phase 2) of EPI with the porting of representative sets of real-life kernels for the chosen application(s). This will address also the integration and interconnection of the EPI hardware ecosystem with other approaches.
Support for a hardware and software development platform common to different processor and accelerator types. This platform should be accessible by a wide range of interested parties. Support should also be directed towards maximising early on the uptake by users of processor and accelerator technology developed in Phases 1 and 2 of EPI for testing purposes.
E4 is actively contributing to the realization of the EuroHPC JU’s overall and specific objectives.
- Strengthening scientific leadership as well as the competitiveness and innovation potential of European industry, contributing to a sustainable exascale HPC supply ecosystem in Europe and ensuring European technological autonomy in this field;
- Provide European industry with a competitive edge in processor technology with potential for a wide range of applications from engineering, science and bio-medical to automotive, manufacturing, finance and emerging big-data and smart objects fields;
- Leveraging the efforts on the European low power processing technologies (in particular the European Processor Initiative) and contributing to the realisation of future exascale system architectures based on such technologies;
- Creation, promotion and exploitation potential of European IP;
- Adding a high-end, reliable and general-purpose family of products well suited to address the needs of prospects and customers.
Because of its participation in the second phase of EPI, E4 will have first-hand access to the second-generation microprocessor (codename CRONOS) and to the EPAC (European Processor Accelerator), the first industrial-grade implementation of the EPI accelerator. E4 is also in charge of developing a family of prototypes (pre-production systems) based on the EPI Reference Board design and of the design of an high-end edge server for demanding applications.
In addition to the participation in the first and second phase of EPI, E4 is member of the following consortia created to address the requirements of specific needs within the EuroHPC JU 2019 requests.
ADMIRE: ADMIRE will allow the throughput of HPC systems as well as the performance of individual applications to be substantially increased – and consequently energy consumption to be decreased – by taking advantage of fast and power-efficient node-local storage tiers through novel, European ad-hoc storage systems, and in-transit/in-situ processing facilities. An integrated and operational prototype will be validated and demonstrated with several use case applications from various domains, including climate/weather, life sciences, physics, remote sensing, and deep learning.
MAELSTROM: MAELSTROM will develop Europe’s supercomputing architecture of the future and enable the Weather and Climate (WC) community to make efficient use of new Machine Learning (ML) capabilities on Wxascale supercomputers. MAELSTROM will implement a co-design cycle that will bring together system designers, ML experts and WC domain scientists to develop compute system designs, a software framework, and large-scale ML applications that are customized for WC science.
LIGATE: The availability of powerful computing resources, new numerical models for simulations, and artificial intelligence increase the accuracy and predictability of Computer-Aided Drug Design (CADD), reducing the costs and time for the design and the production of novel drugs. In LIGATE, we aim to integrate and co-design best in class European open-source components together with proprietary (European) IPs (whose development has already been co-funded by previous H2020 projects) to keep worldwide leadership on CADD solutions exploiting today high-end supercomputer and tomorrow Exascale resources, fostering the European competitiveness in this field. The proposed LIGATE solution, in a fully integrated workflow, enables to deliver the result of a drug design campaign with the highest speed along with the highest accuracy; further implementing the auto-tuning the parameters of the solutions to meet the time and resource constraints.
exaFOAM: this project focus on transitioning Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) from its current near-Petascale performance towards (pre)-Exascale deployment by understanding and overcoming the current limitations in algorithms and production-delivery processes. Therein, they will consolidate the position of European organizations at the leading edge of exploitation of CFD for engineering needs in energy efficiency, safety, clean environment, and comfort. Some targets are: (1) Assess the current main bottlenecks in mainstream CFD; (2) Identify and realize algorithm improvements to enhance HPC scalability; (3) Provide a complete toolset for performance and scalability measures across all HPC platform-flavors; (4) Demonstrate improvements in performance and scalability.
REGALE: The REGALE target is to pave the way of next generation HPC applications to Exascale systems. To accomplish this, we define an open architecture, build a prototype system and incorporate in this system appropriate sophistication in order to equip supercomputing systems with the mechanisms and policies for effective resource utilization and execution of complex applications. The REGALE architecture and prototype will be co-designed considering both state-of-the-art and next generation HPC applications, maximizing in this way its applicability.
The participation in these projects will result in solid, tested and effective products and solutions to be added to E4’s portfolio, reinforcing the approach of E4 to take care and provide products and solution to meet or exceed its customers’.
“E4 is a well-established supplier of products and solutions featuring solid and tested functionalities with a clear innovative edge” says Cosimo Gianfreda, CTO of E4. “The participation in EPI and in the EuroHPC JU projects is a two-way exchange: from one side, E4 brings its in-depth expertise on what customers need to be successful in their business, and on the other side E4 has first-hand access to the technology developed within these projects”.