The government needs to be concerned with both the producers of supercomputing—the researchers who create new technology, the hardware and software designers, the manufacturers and service organizations—and the consumers of supercomputing—the academic, government, and industrial users.


Virtually every group consulted by the committee had concerns about access to supercomputing. Supercomputer center directors in academic settings and in both unclassified and classified mission-oriented centers were concerned about two things: (1) the large amount of time and effort required for procurement decisions and (2) the long time (up to 3 years) between the initial decision to acquire a new system and its actual installation. The recent report by the JASONs3 noted the need for increased capacity computing for the DOE/NNSA Stockpile Stewardship Program. (As pointed out previously, users of capability computing are also users of capacity computing.) Demand for time on NSF supercomputing center resources greatly exceeds supply;4 at the same time, the performance gap between those resources and the highest capability systems is increasing.5 Academic access to DOE/DoD mission-oriented centers is limited by the priority assigned to the mission and, in some cases, by the constraints on access by noncitizens.

At the same time, many users complained about the difficulties in using supercomputer systems to full advantage, the problems caused by moving to a new system, and the absence of supercomputing systems of sufficiently high performance to solve their problems. Those communities able to draw on hero programmers worry that the supply of such individuals is too small.

Some of these immediate needs can be satisfied by additional funding. Capacity computing is a commodity that can be purchased. Additional staffing could help with migration to new systems—higher salaries might help increase the supply of such staff. However, the difficulties of using current systems and the absence of more powerful systems are not fixed so quickly.


JASON Program Office. 2003. Requirements for ASCI. July.


The National Resource Allocations Committee (NRAC) awards access to the computational resources in the NSF PACI program. Information is available at <>.


See TOP500 rankings.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement