High performance computing has become a critical tool for scientific and engineering research. In many fields, computational science and engineering have become as important as the traditional methods of theory and experiment. This trend has been powered by computing hardware and software, computational methodologies and algorithms, availability and access to high performance computing systems, and the growth of a trained pool of scientists and engineers.
The High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program has accelerated this progress through its investment in advanced research in computer and network communications hardware and software, national networks, and agency high performance computing centers. The 10 Federal agencies that participate in the HPCC Program (listed below), along with their partners in industry and academia, have made significant contributions to addressing critical areas of national interest to both the Federal government and the general public.
High Performance computing is knowledge and technology intensive. Its development and application span all scientific and engineering disciplines. Over the last 10 years, a new approach to computing has emerged that can support a broad range of needs ranging from workstations for individuals to the largest scale highest performance systems that are used as shared resources. The workstations may also be small scale parallel systems and connect by high performance networks into clusters. Through the combination of advanced computing and computer communication networks with associated software, these systems may be scaled over a wide performance range, may be heterogeneous, and may be shared over large geographic distances by interdisciplinary research communities. The largest scale parallel systems are referred to as massively parallel when hundreds, thousands, or more processors are involved. Networks of workstations provide access to shared computing resources consisting of other workstations and larger scale higher performance systems.
High performance computing refers to the full range of supercomputing activities including existing supercomputer systems, special purpose and experimental systems, and the new generation of large scale parallel architectures.
A Research and Development Strategy for High Performance Computing Executive Office of the President Office of Science and Technology Policy November 20, 1987
The uses of and demand for advanced computer networking funded in part by the HPCC Program continue to expand. Progress and productivity in many fields of modern scientific and technical research rely on the close interaction of people located at distant sites, sharing and accessing computational resources across high performance networks. Their use of networks has provided researchers with unexpected and unique capabilities and collaborations. As a result, the scientific community is demanding even higher performance from networks. This increased demand includes increasing numbers of users; increasing usage by individual users; the need to transmit more information at faster rates; more sophisticated applications; and the need for increased security, privacy, and the protection of intellectual property.
The solution of "Grand Challenge" problems is a key part of the missions of many agencies in the HPCC Program. Grand Challenges are fundamental problems in science and engineering with broad economic and scientific impact whose solution can be advanced by applying high performance computing techniques and resources. These problems have and will continue to tax any available computational and networking capabilities because of their demands for increased spatial and temporal resolution and increased model complexity. The fundamental physical sciences, engineering, and mathematical underpinnings are similar for many of these problems. To this end, a number of multiagency collaborations are underway. (Examples of these problems are identified in Some Grand Challenge Problems in the "Executive Summary" and in HPCC Research Areas listed below.)
Although the U.S. remains the world leader in most of the critical areas of computing and computer communications technology, this lead is being threatened by countries that recognize the strategic nature of these technology developments. The HPCC Program leads the Federal investment in the frontiers of computing and computer communications technologies, formulated to satisfy national needs in science and technology, the economy, human resources, and technology transfer.
The HPCC Program will help provide the technological foundation for the National Information Infrastructure (NII). The NII will consist of computers and information appliances (including telephones and video displays), all containing computerized information, linked by high speed telecommunication lines capable of transmitting billions of bits of information in a second (an entire encyclopedia in a few seconds). A Nation of users will be trained to use this technology.
The computing and networking technology that will make the NII possible is improving at an unprecedented rate, expanding its effectiveness and even further stimulating our imaginations about how it can be used. Using these technologies, a doctor who seeks a second opinion could transmit a patient's entire medical record -- X- rays and ultrasound scans included -- to a colleague thousands of miles away, in less time that it takes to send a fax today. A school child in a small town could come home and through a personal computer reach into an electronic Library of Congress or a great art gallery or museum to view thousands of books, photographs, records, videos, and works of art, all stored electronically. At home, viewers could use equivalent commercial services to choose at any time to view one of thousands of films or segments of television programming.
The Administration is committed to accelerating the development and deployment of the NII, which the U.S. will need to compete in the 21st century. This infrastructure of "information superhighways" will revolutionize the way we work, learn, shop, and live, and will provide Americans the information they need, when they need it, and where they need it -- whether in the form of text, images, sound, or video. It promises to have an even greater impact than the interstate highways or the telephone system. The NII will be as ubiquitous as the telephone system, but will be able to carry information at least 1,000 times faster. It will be able to transmit not only voice and fax, but will also provide hundreds of channels of interactive high-definition TV programming, teleconferencing, and access to huge volumes of information.
Thanks in part to the HPCC Program, this technology is already in use in many of our research laboratories where it is transforming the way research is done. Scientists and engineers can access information from computer databases scattered throughout the country and use high performance computers and research equipment thousands of miles away. Perhaps most importantly, researchers can collaborate and share information and tools with colleagues across the country and around the world as easily as if they were in the same room.
This same telecommunications and computing technology could soon be available to all Americans, provided there is adequate public and private investment and forward-looking government policies that promote its deployment and use.
The Administration believes that the Federal government has several important roles to play in the development of this infrastructure, which will be built and operated primarily by the private sector. The HPCC Program is a key part of the Administration's strategy for the NII. On February 22, 1993, the President and the Vice President unveiled a Technology Initiative that outlined the five parts of the Administration's strategy for building the National Information Infrastructure:
This Program is helping develop the basic technology needed for the NII.
Through the new Information Infrastructure Technology and Applications (IITA) component of the HPCC Program, industry, universities, and Federal laboratories will collaborate to develop technologies needed to improve effective use of the NII.
The Federal government will provide funding for networking pilot projects through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce, which currently plays a key role in developing Federal communications policy. NTIA will provide matching grants to states, school districts, libraries, and other non-profit entities to purchase the computers and network connections needed for distance learning and for linking into computer networks such as the Internet. These pilot projects will demonstrate the benefits of networking in the educational and library communities. In addition, to the extent that other agencies undertake networking pilot projects, NTIA will coordinate such projects, as appropriate.
Every year, the Federal government spends billions of dollars collecting and processing information (e.g., economic data, environmental data, and technical information). Unfortunately, while much of this information is very valuable, many potential users either do not know that it exists or do not know how to access it. The Administration is committed to using new computer and networking technology to make this information more available to the taxpayers who paid for it. This will require consistent Federal information policies designed to ensure that Federal information is made available at a fair price to as many users as possible while encouraging the growth of the information industry.
Government telecommunications policy has not kept pace with new developments in telecommunications and computer technology. As a result, government regulations have tended to inhibit competition and delay deployment of new technology and services. Without a consistent, stable regulatory environment, the private sector will hesitate to make the investments necessary to build the high speed national telecommunications network that this country needs to compete successfully in the 21st century. To address this and other problems, the Administration has created a White House-level interagency Information Infrastructure Task Force that will work with Congress, the private sector, and state and local governments to reach consensus on and implement policy changes needed to accelerate deployment of the NII.
Although the HPCC Program began as a research and development program, its impact is already being felt far beyond the research and education communities. The high performance computing technology developed under this Program has allowed users to improve understanding of global warming, discover more effective and safer drugs, design safer and more fuel-efficient cars and aircraft, and access huge "digital libraries" of information. The high speed networking technology developed and demonstrated by the HPCC Program has accelerated the growth of the Internet computer network and enabled millions of users not just to exchange electronic mail, but to access computers, digital libraries, and research equipment around the world. This technology, which allows Internet users to hold a video conference from their desks, is enabling researchers across the country to collaborate as effectively as if they were in the same room. The new IITA component of the HPCC Program will accelerate the deployment of HPCC technology into the marketplace and ensure that all Americans can enjoy its benefits.
Federal investment in new technologies is one of the best investments the government can make, one that will provide huge, long-term benefits in terms of new jobs, better health care, better education, and a higher standard of living. This is particularly true in the case of the National Information Infrastructure, which will provide benefits to all sectors of our economy. Few initiatives offer as many potential benefits to all Americans.
Several strategic and programmatic modifications have been made to the HPCC Program in order to enable the NII Initiative to build on the Program's original four components. The most significant of these is the addition of the new IITA program component. IITA consists of research and development to enable the integration of critical information systems and the application of these systems to "National Challenges," problems where the application of HPCC technology can provide huge benefits to all Americans.
These efforts will develop and apply high performance computing and communications technologies to improve information systems for National Challenges such as the civil infrastructure, digital libraries, education and lifelong learning, energy management, the environment, health care, manufacturing processes and products, national security, and public access to government information. Working with industry, IITA will support the development of the NII and the development of the computer, network, and database technology needed to provide appropriate privacy and security protection for users.
Five equally important, integrated components represent the key areas of high performance computing and communications:
Extend U.S. technological leadership in high performance computing through the development of scalable computing systems, with associated software, capable of sustaining at least one trillion operations per second (teraops) performance. Scalable parallel and distributed computing systems will be able to support the full range of usage from workstations through the largest scale highest performance systems. Workstations will extend into portable wireless interfaces as technology advances.
Extend U.S. technological leadership in computer communications by a program of research and development that advances the leading edge of networking technology and services. NREN will widen the research and education community's access to high performance computing and research centers and to electronic information resources and libraries. This will accelerate the development and deployment of networking technologies by the telecommunications industry. It includes nationwide prototypes for terrestrial, satellite, wireless, and wireline communications systems, including fiber optics, with common protocol support and applications interfaces.
Demonstrate prototype solutions to Grand Challenge problems through the development of advanced algorithms and software and the use of HPCC resources. Grand Challenge problems are computationally intensive problems such as forecasting weather, predicting climate, improving environmental monitoring, building more energy-efficient cars and airplanes, designing better drugs, and conducting basic scientific research.
Demonstrate prototype solutions to National Challenge problems using HPCC enabling technologies. IITA will support integrated systems technology demonstration projects for critical National Challenge applications through development of intelligent systems interfaces. These will include systems development environments with support for virtual reality, image understanding, language and speech understanding, and data and object bases for electronic libraries and commerce.
Support research, training, and education in computer science, computer engineering, and computational science, and enhance the infrastructure through the addition of HPCC resources. Initiation of pilot projects for K-12 and lifelong learning will support expansion of the NII.
Extend U.S. technological leadership in high performance computing and computer communications.
Provide wide dissemination and application of the technologies to speed the pace of innovation and to improve the national economic competitiveness, national security, education, health care, and the global environment.
Provide key parts of the foundation for the National Information Infrastructure (NII) and demonstrate selected NII applications.
ARPA -- Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense DOE -- Department of Energy ED -- Department of Education EPA -- Environmental Protection Agency NASA -- National Aeronautics and Space Administration NIH -- National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services NIST -- National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Commerce NOAA -- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce NSA -- National Security Agency, Department of Defense NSF -- National Science Foundation
HPCC Program Strategies
Develop, through industrial collaboration, high performance computing systems using scalable parallel designs and technologies capable of sustaining at least one trillion operations per second (teraops) performance on large scientific and engineering problems such as Grand Challenges.
Support all HPCC components by helping to expand and upgrade the Internet.
Develop the networking technology required for deployment of nationwide gigabit speed networks through collaboration with industry.
Demonstrate the productiveness of wide area gigabit networking to support and enhance Grand Challenge applications collaborations.
Demonstrate prototype solutions of Grand Challenge problems that achieve and exploit teraops performance.
Provide and encourage innovation in the use of high performance computing systems and network access technologies for solving Grand Challenge and other applications by establishing collaborations to provide and improve emerging software and algorithms.
Create an infrastructure, including high performance computing research centers, networks, and collaborations that encourage the diffusion and use of high performance computing and communications technologies in U.S. research and industrial applications.
Work with industry to develop information infrastructure technology to support the National Information Infrastructure.
Leverage the HPCC investment by working with industry to implement National Challenge applications.
Enhance computational science as a widely recognized discipline for basic research by establishing nationally recognized and accepted educational programs in computational science at the pre-college, undergraduate, and postgraduate levels.
Increase the number of graduate and postdoctoral fellowships in computer science, computer engineering, computational science and engineering, and informatics, and initiate undergraduate computational sciences scholarships and fellowships.