Launch of Barcelona's 'Marenostrum 5' supercomputer delayed

Inauguration, initially planned for early 2021, pending due to Covid-19 and bureaucratic problems

The Marenostrum 4 at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (by BSC)
The Marenostrum 4 at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (by BSC) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

July 25, 2021 11:38 AM

Marenostrum 5, which is set to become the most powerful computer at Barcelona's supercomputing center, was supposed to be launched on December 31st, 2020. But the deadline is over half a year overdue, and it is not up and running yet. 

Sources of Barcelona's Supercomputing Center told Catalan News this week that the delay is due to the current Covid-19 pandemic and also due to bureaucratic problems.

Mare Nostrum 5 and the EU Project 

Marenostrum is the most powerful computer in Spain, since 2004 four versions have been installed. The computer works as a simulator; all stored data is used to create unique situations to improve every scientific field with predictive models of behaviour. 

In 2019, the European Commission chose the BSC, along with other EU member States, such as Bulgaria, Finland or Italy, to be part of the initiative European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking. 

Basically, the project aims to create super powerful computers in order to experiment with new technologies for the next generation of supercomputers in Europe. 

Mare Nostrum 5 was the highest UE investment in research infrastructure in Spain, about 100 million euros

The computer will be able to operate at 200 petaFLOP per second - one petaFLOP computer system is capable of performing one quadrillion floating-point operations per second. Therefore, Mare Nostrum 5 will do 200 trillion operations per second.   

To match what one petaFLOP computer system can do in just one second, you’d have to perform one calculation every second for 31 million years. 

Also, it will be 15-20 times faster than the supercomputer it will replace, Mare Nostrum 4, and 10,000 times more than the first version. 

The director of BSC, Josep Martorell, told Catalan News in 2019: “The economic impacts of a facility like this can be easily seen in the amount of money we’ll be able to attract from public and private firms to conduct our research. All this money we can attract means more jobs. It means the capacity of creating new jobs, high-level jobs, for technological people.” 

Current research

As stated before, Mare Nostrum is used in every scientific field. For instance, it is very useful in Medicine because doctors can decide which treatment to use in a patient by comparing old and new cases with the supercomputer.

Mare Nostrum 4 is currently being used to investigate: the creation of new materials, the prediction of the weather, the cure for HIV patients, among others. 

They are also fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic. On the first one they are comparing genomes of different types of coronavirus in order to understand how the virus is transmitted. On the other one, they are looking for which molecules are the best ones to stop the Covid-19.

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