High-performance computing is important in solving complex problems in areas from climate and biology to national security. Several factors have led to the recent reexamination of the rationale for federal investment in research and development in support of high-performance computing, including continuing changes in the various component technologies and their markets, the evolution of the computing market, particularly the high-end supercomputing segment, experience with several systems using the clustered processor architecture, and the evolution of the problems, many of them mission-driven, for which supercomputers are used.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science expressed an interest in sponsoring a study by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) of the National Research Council (NRC) that would assess the state of U.S. supercomputing capabilities and relevant research and development. Spurred by the development of the Japanese vector-based Earth Simulator supercomputer, the Senate’s Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee directed the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at DOE to commission, in collaboration with DOE’s Office of Science, a study by the NRC. Congress also commissioned a study by the JASONs1 to identify the distinct requirements of the stockpile stewardship program and its relation to the ASC acquisition strategy.
The committee did its work through its own expert deliberations and by soliciting input from key officials in its sponsoring agency (DOE) and numerous experts in both the United States and Japan, including government officials, academic researchers, supercomputer manufacturers, software vendors, supercomputer center managers, and application users of supercomputing systems (see Appendix B). In addition to meeting six times, the committee hosted a workshop attended by more than 20 scientists from a broad range of disciplines to explore the supercomputing needs and opportunities of key scientific domains in the coming decade and to discuss the supercomputing technologies that will facilitate supercomputer use in these domains. Many of the workshop participants provided white papers (see Appendix C for a list) expressing their views on computational challenges in supercomputing, which informed both the workshop and this report.
The committee also visited five DOE supercomputer centers and the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) Supercomputer Center (see Appendix B). A subset of the committee received classified briefings from the Department of Energy on stockpile stewardship and from the NSA on signals intelligence that helped illuminate how these mission requirements drive supercomputing needs now and in the future. Given that a significant fraction of government funding of supercomputing is for classified national security programs, the committee believed such briefings were needed to ensure that its report would be useful for the entire supercomputing community. Having received the briefings, the committee believes that the needs of the classified supercomputing applications reinforce, but do not change, the committee’s findings and recommendations for the future of supercomputing. This unclassified report does not have a classified annex, nor is there a classified version.