Hewlett Packard supercomputer built to advance understanding of the brain

Charlotte Edwards 9 July 2018 (Last Updated July 9th, 2018 16:01)

Global technology company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been chosen by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s (EPFL) Blue Brain Project, a Swiss brain research initiative to build a next-generation supercomputer for the modelling and simulating of the mammalian brain.

Hewlett Packard supercomputer built to advance understanding of the brain
The advanced supercomputer, built by Hewlett Packard, is based on the HPE SGI 8600 System. Credit: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Global technology company Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has been chosen by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s (EPFL) Blue Brain Project, a Swiss brain research initiative to build a next-generation supercomputer for the modelling and simulating of the mammalian brain.

The supercomputer, called Blue Brain 5, will be predominately used for simulation-based research, analysis and visualisation, with the aim of advancing the understanding of the brain.

The Blue Brain Project is pioneering the approach of reconstructing and simulating digital models of brains in an attempt to discover how different parts in the brain work together.

Overall costs of creating the supercomputing technology could reach CHF18m.  HPE’s design is based on the company’s SGI 8600 System, which the company claims will provide tailored and scalable compute performance to enable the Blue Brain Project to pursue its goal of modelling entire mouse brain regions by 2020.

HPE president and CEO Antonio Neri said: “Our mission is to create technologies that improve our quality of life, including powering technologies for the healthcare industry to deliver targeted treatments and save lives.

“Through our relationship with the Blue Brain Project, HPE is bringing advanced supercomputing and bespoke applications to empower new research that can have transformative benefits for the neuroscientific community and society at large.”

The flexible architecture of the HPE SGI 8600 System is said to be integral for the Blue Brain Project’s goals as it can host different sub systems that are designed for tasks, such as visualisation or deep learning, while being operated as a single system.

Blue Brain Project co-director Felix Schürmann said: “The Blue Brain Project’s scientific mission is critically dependent on our supercomputing capabilities. Modelling an individual neuron at Blue Brain today leads to around 20,000 ordinary differential equations, when modelling entire brain regions, this quickly raises to 100 billion equations that have to be solved concurrently. HPE helps us to navigate the challenging technology landscape in supercomputing.”

The Blue Brain Project’s HPE SGI 8600 supercomputer consists of 372 compute nodes delivering 1.06 petaflops of peak performance. The system has 94 terabytes of memory and runs Intel Xeon Gold 6140 and Intel Xeon Phi 7230 processors, as well as NVIDIA Tesla V100 graphic processors. The system uses single and dual-rail Mellanox InfiniBand high-performance networks and has four petabytes of high-performance storage from DataDirect Networks.

The supercomputer also features a liquid cooling solution, designed to be energy efficient and not exhaust heated air into the surrounding working environment.