Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Panel warns US to ratchet up supercomputer research


A panel of leading computer scientists warned in a report issued last week that unless the US federal government significantly increased support for advanced research on supercomputing, the US would be unable to retain its lead on that technological front.

The panel of scientists, which was convened by the National Research Council, warned of a looming imbalance between hardware and software technology in high-performance computing.

"We are calling for a sustained and long-term investment to help develop advanced software and algorithms," said Steven Wallach, a computer designer at Chiaro Networks, a maker of an optical router for high-speed computing and a member of the panel.

The report, "Getting Up to Speed: The Future of Supercomputing," was based on an effort begun in 2002.

"Our situation has deteriorated during the past 10 years," said Susan Graham, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was co-chairwoman of the panel.

The authors of the report, which was prepared for the Energy Department, said they were recommending that the federal government spend US$140 million annually on new supercomputing technologies. The federal government currently spends about US$42 million each year, according to a recent report of the High End Computing Revitalization Task Force, a federal government working group.

"If we don't start doing something about this now, there will be nothing available in 10 years when we really need these systems," Graham said.

The BlueGene/L supercomputer from IBM was last week placed first on a list of the world's 500 fastest computers in a ranking announced at a high-performance-computing conference in Pittsburgh. The ranking is issued twice each year. The IBM machine, which is being installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in California, surpasses the speed set in 2002 by a Japanese supercomputer known as the Earth Simulator.

Overall, the Intel Corp consolidated its advantage in supercomputing. More than 320 systems on the top 500 list are based on Intel microprocessors, an increase from 287 Intel-based systems just six months ago.

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