Getting Up To Speed: The Future Of Supercomputing


Susan L. Graham, Marc Snir, and Cynthia A. Patterson, Editors


Citation: National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2005

Links: Abstract, Acrobat

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Supercomputing is very important to the United States for conducting basic scientific research and for ensuring the physical and economic well-being of the country. The United States has a proud history of leadership in supercomputing, which has contributed not only to its international standing in science and engineering and to national health and security but also to the commercial strength of many industries, including the computing industry. Supercomputing has become a major contributor to the economic competitiveness of our automotive, aerospace, medical, and pharmaceutical industries. The discovery of new substances and new techniques, as well as cost reduction through simulation rather than physical prototyping, will underpin progress in a number of economically important areas. The use of supercomputing in all of these areas is growing, and it is increasingly essential to continued progress.

However, in recent years our progress in supercomputing has slowed, as attention turned to other areas of science and engineering. The advances in mainstream computing brought about by improved processor performance have enabled some former supercomputing needs to be addressed by clusters of commodity processors. Yet important applications, some vital to our nationís security, require technology that is only available in the most advanced custom-built systems. We have been remiss in attending to the conduct of the long-term research and development we will one day need and to the sustenance of the industrial capabilities that will also be needed. The Japanese Earth Simulator has served as a wake-up call, reminding us that complacency can cause us to lose not only our competitive advantage but also, and more importantly, the national competence that we need to achieve our own goals.

To maintain our level of achievement in supercomputing and its applications, as well as to keep us from falling behind relative to other nations and to our own needs, a renewed national effort is needed. That effort must have the following components:

        Government leadership in maintaining a national planning activity that is sustained, ongoing, and coordinated and that drives investment decisions.

        Continuing progress in creating hardware, software, and algorithmic technologies that enable the application of supercomputing to important domain-specific problems. Such progress will require continuing government investment.

        International collaborations in all aspects of supercomputing except those that would demonstrably compromise national security.