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Getting up to Speed the Future of Supercomputing
ment a National High-Performance Computing Program, which shall (A) establish the goals and priorities for Federal high-performance computing research, development, networking, and other activities; and (B) provide for interagency coordination of Federal high-performance computing research, development, networking, and other activities undertaken pursuant to the Program.”
Yet the need for planning and coordination remains. The committee gave particular attention to two aspects of planning and coordination: What needs to be done? Who needs to take responsibility for it? A coordinated way to figure out what needs to be done would be to create and maintain a supercomputing roadmap. The issue of responsibility must satisfy the identified needs of hardware and software producers for stability over time, for a research-to-production continuum, and for the continuing allocation of adequate funding.
A Supercomputing Roadmap
Roadmaps are one kind of planning mechanism. A roadmap starts with a set of quantitative goals, such as the target time to solution for certain weapons simulations or the target cost per solution for certain climate simulations. It identifies the components required to achieve these goals, along with their quantitative properties, and describes how they will enable achievement of the final quantitative goals. For example, certain classes of technologies might enable certain processor and memory speeds. In order to evaluate progress, conduct rational short- and medium-term planning, and accommodate increasing scientific demands, the roadmap should specify not just a single performance goal (like petaflops) at a distant point in time but a sequence of intermediate milestones as well. The roadmap also identifies the activities (for instance, work on higher bandwidth networks or work on higher performance optimization tools) and the resources (such as widgets, money, or people) needed for each goal. A roadmap is periodically updated to reflect current progress and needs. The roadmap needs to be quantitative to allow rational investment decisions and instill confidence that the ultimate goal will be reached.
One well-known roadmap activity is that by the semiconductor industry,19 which spends approximately $1 million per year on the effort.
W.J. Spencer and T.E. Seidel. In press. “International Technology Roadmaps: The U.S. Semiconductor Experience.” Productivity and Cyclicality in Semiconductors: Trends, Implications, and Questions. Dale W. Jorgenson and Charles W. Wessner, eds., Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.