The European Union seeks 20,000 GPUs to create a supercomputer that builds a digital Earth

In full shortage of GPUs and silicons worldwide, the European Union wants to build a supercomputer with 20,000 graphics cards to give life to Destination Earth (DestineE), which in other words, translates into creating a clone of our planet Earth completely digital, and this will require 1,000 million euros and up to 10 years of work. When the work is finished, we will have a computational replica of the Earth with which we hope to face climate change and environmental disasters.

Delving into its usefulness, this supercomputer will bring together Earth's so-called digital twins, which are numerical models of our homeworld that simulate and forecast weather and climate, ocean currents and polar caps, food and water supplies, the effect of humans on the environment, and a long etcetera, hoping that it will help the European Union to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

Long before that, it is expected that in 2025 there will be four or five digital twins in operation, and by 2030, "a complete digital twin of the Earth through the convergence of the digital twins already offered."

"If a two-meter-high dike is planned in the Netherlands, for example, I can review the data on my digital twin and see if the dike will most likely continue to protect against the extreme events predicted in 2050," stated Peter Bauer, Deputy Director of Research at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) and co-initiator of the Destination Earth initiative.

"First, a digital twin would become a data assimilation instrument that performs continuous cycles of highly detailed, high-resolution real-time Earth system simulations, and ingests observational information from all possible instruments - including novel observatories such as miniaturized satellites, drones in the Arctic, underwater cables and buoys, smart sensor arrays in farm fields and mobile phones within the growing Internet of Things - also to estimate uncertain model parameters and details of the surrogate processes that are missing, "states an article describing the project published in Nature.

Let's talk about the hardware needed to bring Destination Earth (DestineE) to life

The team thought that GPU-accelerated machines are the way to go, rather than CPU or a trade-off between CPU and GPU. After weighing the benchmarks and considering the technology to be developed in the near future, they believe that to run a digital twin of Earth at full scale, they will need something four times the size of the current 25+ petaFLOPS Piz Daint supercomputer. of power, and that it has 5,000 Nvidia Tesla P100 GPUs.

"By extrapolating this to near-future technology, you get an estimate of a remaining deficit factor of four, so it would take about 20,000 GPUs to perform the digital twin calculations at the required performance. This machine would be endowed with the power of about 20MW".

As a second comparison, the second most powerful supercomputer in the world, the Summit, has a maximum theoretical performance of about 200 petaFLOPs and currently has more than 27,000 Nvidia Tesla V100 GPUs. It was built by IBM for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its consumption is 13MW.

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