February 2005
Trends in High Performance Computing
Susan L Graham, University of California at Berkeley
Marc Snir, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Recommendation 5. The government agencies responsible for supercomputing should underwrite a community effort to develop and maintain a roadmap that identifies key obstacles and synergies in all of supercomputing.

A roadmap is necessary to ensure that investments in supercomputing R&D are prioritized appropriately. It should be developed with wide participation from researchers, developers of both commodity and custom technologies and users; it should be driven both top-down from application needs and bottom-up from technology barriers; it should be, as much as possible, quantitative in measuring needs and capabilities; finally, it should not ignore the strong interdependencies of technologies.

The roadmap should be used by agencies and by Congress to guide their long-term research and development investments. It is important also to invest in some high-risk, high-return research ideas that are not indicated by the roadmap, to avoid being blindsided.

Recommendation 6. Government agencies responsible for supercomputing should increase their levels of stable, robust, sustained multiagency investment in basic research. More research is needed in all the key technologies required for the design and use of supercomputers (architecture, software, algorithms, and applications).

The decreased research investments at a time in which roadblocks are accumulating puts the supercomputing enterprise at risk. A major correction is needed. The committee estimated the investment needed to support research in core supercomputing technologies at $140 million per year. (This estimate does not include application development or platform acquisition.) It is important that this investment focus on universities, both because of the importance of a free flow of information at an early stage, and because of the role of universities in educating the future cadre of supercomputing practitioners. Finally, research should include a mix of small, medium and large projects, including demonstration systems where technologies are integrated. Such systems are important to study the interplay of technologies and validate them in a realistic environment; they should not be confused with product prototypes and should not be expected to support users.

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Reference this article
Graham, S., Snir, M. "The NRC Report on the Future of Supercomputing," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 1, February 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/02/nrc-report/

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