November 2005
E-Infrastructure: Europe Meets the e-Science Challenge
Craig Mundie, CTO – Microsoft Corporation

Computer Science and the Science and Engineering Community

In parallel with these developments in HPC, we are no longer seeing the kind of heady growth in the number of trained computer scientists produced by the world’s universities. In fact, in the United States, this number is actually going down. The numbers are still rising in places like India and China right now, but one can forecast fairly directly that, even if all these people were involved in engineering and science, there will not be enough of them to meet future demand. I think the problem is in fact worse than this because Computer Science is still a young and maturing discipline.

So another interest I have in seeing Microsoft engage with the scientific community is in helping to bridge the divide between the Computer Science community and the broader world of research and engineering. My personal belief is that what we currently know as computing is going to have to evolve substantially–and what we know as programming is going to have to evolve even more dramatically. Every person who is involved in software development will struggle to deal with the complexity that comes from assembling ever larger and more complicated and interconnected pieces of software. Microsoft, as a company that aspires to be the world leader in providing software tools and platforms, is thinking deeply about how to solve those problems. One of the features that attracts me toward the world of high performance computing is that it is a world made up of people who have daily problems that need to get done, who live in an engineering environment but who are frequently at the bleeding edge in terms of the tools and techniques. And frankly there is a level of aggressiveness in this community that cannot really exist in basic business IT operations, particularly not at the scale where people are attempting to solve big new problems. So for all these reasons, Bill Gates and I decided that even though technical computing is not going to be the world’s largest software market, this is a strategic market in the sense that the HPC community can help us all better understand these challenging problems. We therefore hope that together we can help move the ball forward in some of these very difficult areas. As we look downstream and contemplate some fairly radical changes in the nature of computing itself and the need for software tools to deal with that, we also expect that this community is a place from which technical leaders can emerge. We would like to be a part of that.

We think that Microsoft has some assets that could really make a difference for the growing community of people who will need to adopt HPC technologies for their business or their research. Before too long, these people will not only want to solve the problem but will also want to be able to configure and manage these HPC systems for themselves. One thing that Microsoft can do really well is to provide good tools not only for programming but also for administration, management and security.

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Reference this article
Mundie, C. "The Next Decade in HPC ," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 1, Number 4, November 2005. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2005/11/the-next-decade-in-hpc/

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