The HPC Asia 2009 keynote speech given by Dr. William T.C. Kramer introduces us to the NCSA beginning with its history in field of HPC and continuing on with its latest development, the Blue Waters project. The talk also examines the concepts behind the open science-based projects and applications that are slated to run over Blue Waters. Dr. Kramer then concludes with his insight into Petascale and Exascale era challenges of the future.
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Part 1: An Introduction to the NCSA
The University of Illinois and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) have been chartered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to field what is going to be the first Open Science Petascale sustained computer. I’m going to talk more about that in a little bit but before I do, I would like to talk a little bit about the NCSA, my new place of business, and also some experiences that point from the Terascale era to the Petascale era. The NCSA provides computing power for the scientific community not just in the United States, but also throughout the world in some projects. We support about 2,000 users nationwide through a process of allocations that are competitive and also provide a range of computing power for them. The NCSA has been doing this for over 20 years. In addition, we provide software and tools and there’s a long list of software that I will show you in a little bit. The NCSA prides itself on the ability to analyze data and visualize data and do that over the wide area. The NCSA is also one of the founding members of the TeraGrid as well as many other Grids and the NCSA combines all the services of cyber infrastructure for them.
The history of computing at Illinois goes back to the 1950s with some Nobel winning work for transistors and integrated circuits as well as one of the early computing machines called the “Iliad.” That moved from the “Iliad 4” which started some things like the Plato-based systems that ran for a while as some of the first computer-based educational systems. The NCSA was formed in the 1980s in response to the need for high performance computing in the United States and in the 90s, was one of the founding partners of the TeraGrid. In the last couple years, the NCSA has had two major activities going on. The first is a universal parallel computing research center that is funded by Microsoft and Intel for research in multi core computing and then the Blue Waters project which I’ll talk more about in a little bit.
Another aspect of the NCSA that is important is its ability to do economic development and that’s a cornerstone of what the Blue Waters project is built around. The NCSA has a history of having some spinoff companys form as well as a number of the NCSA’s alumni going on to founding companies that you hear of throughout the computing industry. And of course, software, probably some of which are using right now like of browsers and web infrastructure if you’re networked at all. Also, there’s a whole variety of other software pointed at some of the projects that the NCSA has developed.