A variety of events led to a reevaluation of the United States supercomputing programs by several studies in 2003 and 2004. The events include the emergence of the Japanese Earth Simulator in early 2002 as the leading supercomputing platform; the near disappearance of Cray, the last remaining U.S. manufacturer of custom supercomputers; some criticism of the acquisition budgets of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program; and some doubts about the level and direction of supercomputing R&D in the U.S. We report here on a study that was conducted by a committee convened by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Research Council (NRC). It was chaired by Susan L. Graham and Marc Snir; it had sixteen additional members with diverse backgrounds: William J. Dally, James W. Demmel, Jack J. Dongarra, Kenneth S. Flamm, Mary Jane Irwin, Charles Koelbel, Butler W. Lampson, Robert F. Lucas, Paul C. Messina, Jeffrey M. Perloff, William H. Press, Albert J. Semtner, Scott Stern, Shankar Subramaniam, Lawrence C. Tarbell, Jr. and Steve J. Wallach. The CSTB study director was Cynthia A. Patterson, assisted by Phil Hilliard, Margaret Marsh Huynh and Herbert S. Lin. The study was sponsored by the DOE's Office of Science and the DOE's Advanced Simulation and Computing program.
The study commenced in March 2003. Information was gathered from briefings during 5 committee meetings; an application workshop in which more than 20 computational scientists participated; site visits to DOE labs and NSA; a town hall meeting at the 2003 Supercomputing Conference; and a visit to Japan that included a supercomputing forum held in Tokyo. An interim report was issued in July 2003 and the final report was issued in November 2004. The report was extensively reviewed by seventeen external reviewers in a blind peer-review process as well as by NRC staff. The prepublication version of the report (at over 200 pages), entitled "Getting up to Speed: The Future of Supercomputing," is available from the National Academies Press1 and also from DOE.2. The final published version of the report is due in early 2005.
The study focuses on supercomputing, narrowly defined as the development and use of the fastest and most powerful computing systems — i.e., capability computing. It covers technological, political and economic aspects of the supercomputing enterprise. We summarize in the following sections the main findings and recommendations of this study.