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Obama orders creation of National Strategic Computing Initiative; delivering exascale computing

President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). The NSCI is a whole-of-government effort designed to create a cohesive, multi-agency strategic vision and Federal investment strategy, executed in collaboration with industry and academia, to maximize the benefits of high-performance computing (HPC) for the United States. One of the specific objectives is accelerating the delivery of exascale computing. (Earlier post.)

The coordinated Federal strategy is to be guided by four principles: deploying and applying new HPC technologies broadly for economic competitiveness and scientific discovery; fostering public-private collaboration; cooperaation among all executive departments and agencies with significant expertise or equities in HPC while also collaborating with industry and academia; and developing a comprehensive technical and scientific approach to transition HPC research on hardware, system software, development tools, and applications efficiently into development and, ultimately, operations.

The Executive Order specifies five strategic objectives:

  • Accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system (quintillions of floating point operations per second, or 1,000 times faster than a 1-petaflop computer) that integrates hardware and software capability to deliver approximately 100 times the performance of current 10 petaflop systems across a range of applications representing government needs.

  • Increasing coherence between the technology base used for modeling and simulation and that used for data analytic computing.

  • Establishing, over the next 15 years, a viable path forward for future HPC systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached (the “post-Moore’s Law era”).

  • Increasing the capacity and capability of an enduring national HPC ecosystem by employing a holistic approach that addresses relevant factors such as networking technology, workflow, downward scaling, foundational algorithms and software, accessibility, and workforce development.

  • Developing an enduring public-private collaboration to ensure that the benefits of the research and development advances are, to the greatest extent, shared between the United States Government and industrial and academic sectors.

The order establishes the NSCI to implement this whole-of-government strategy, in collaboration with industry and academia, for HPC research, development, and deployment.

To achieve the five strategic objectives, the order identifies lead agencies; foundational research and development agencies; and deployment agencies.

  • Lead agencies are charged with developing and delivering the next generation of integrated HPC capability and will engage in mutually supportive research and development in hardware and software, as well as in developing the workforce to support the objectives of the NSCI.

  • Foundational research and development agencies are charged with fundamental scientific discovery work and associated advances in engineering necessary to support the NSCI objectives.

  • Deployment agencies will develop mission-based HPC requirements to influence the early stages of the design of new HPC systems and will seek viewpoints from the private sector and academia on target HPC requirements.

Lead Agencies. There are three lead agencies for the NSCI: the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

  • The DOE Office of Science and DOE National Nuclear Security Administration will execute a joint program focused on advanced simulation through a capable exascale computing program emphasizing sustained performance on relevant applications and analytic computing to support their missions.

  • NSF will play a central role in scientific discovery advances, the broader HPC ecosystem for scientific discovery, and workforce development.

  • DOD will focus on data analytic computing to support its mission.

Foundational Research and Development Agencies. There are two foundational research and development agencies for the NSCI: the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

  • IARPA will focus on future computing paradigms offering an alternative to standard semiconductor computing technologies.

  • NIST will focus on measurement science to support future computing technologies.

The foundational research and development agencies will coordinate with deployment agencies to enable effective transition of research and development efforts that support the wide variety of requirements across the Federal Government.

Deployment Agencies. There are five deployment agencies for the NSCI: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the National Institutes of Health; the Department of Homeland Security; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These agencies may participate in the co-design process to integrate the special requirements of their respective missions and influence the early stages of design of new HPC systems, software, and applications. Agencies will also have the opportunity to participate in testing, supporting workforce development activities, and ensuring effective deployment within their mission contexts.

An NSCI Executive Council will be co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Executive Council immediately is tasked with establishing an implementation plan to support and align efforts across agencies in support of the NSCI objectives. Annually thereafter for 5 years, the Executive Council needs to update the implementation plan as required and document the progress made in implementing the plan, engaging with the private sector, and taking actions to implement this order. After 5 years, updates to the implementation plan may be requested at the discretion of the Co-Chairs.



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