Energy solicits proposals for INCITE

The Energy Department is soliciting proposals for advanced research projects in a program that will award 1.3 billion processor hours next year on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

This is the seventh year for the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program (INCITE), run by Energy's Office of Science. Recent upgrades in computing capacity have made it possible for the program to significantly expand its offerings from the 900 million processor hours awarded in 2009. The computing time is being made available at Energy's Leadership Computing Facilities, which include Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

Argonne houses the IBM Blue Gene/P supercomputing system; and Oak Ridge houses the Cray XT system. About 60 percent of run-time on these systems is allocated through INCITE.The program is open to academic, government and industrial research programs.

“INCITE provides access to unprecedented computing power and resources that will enable researchers to attack some of the most challenging problems in basic sciences through advanced simulation and modeling,” said Michael Strayer, Energy's associate director for science and advanced scientific computing research.

The awards will go to projects that require the petascale computing power (quadrillion calculations per second) provided by Energy's supercomputers. This capacity allows complex modeling and calculations to be done in days rather than decades.

INCITE provides researchers with access to more than the supercomputers, said Pete Beckman, director of Argonne’s computing facility. “A key aspect of the program is expanding the horizons of thinking by connecting researchers with scientific and technical staff at [Energy's] computing facilities so the researchers can get the best scientific results from the machines.”

The program can also provide cross-pollination, benefiting Energy's supercomputing programs and the outside researchers. One of the 66 projects awarded time in 2009 is an effort by researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, Vita Nuova Holdings Ltd., Carnegie-Mellon University, IBM and Bell Labs to develop the Plan 9 operating system, to “provide a new software environment for supercomputers that makes the supercomputer appear to be part of the user’s desktop system, instead of a remote and hard-to-access external computer.”

Plan 9 was awarded 8 million processor hours on Argonne’s Blue Gene/P. The average allocation for 2009 was about 13 million hours. “In 2010 the average allocation is expected to increase dramatically,” Energy said in its solicitation for proposals.

The winning programs in 2009 ranged from engineering to astrophysics, and included biology, materials sciences, climate study and plasma physics.

Proposals will be peer reviewed for scientific merit, suitability of the algorithms for the systems they will run on, and the readiness of the code to make effective use of the system by using most of the processors in a single run. Applicants can request allocations for one to three years. Proposals must be submitted by July 1, and details are available in the call for proposals.

INCITE is open to proprietary commercial programs as well as non-proprietary. For proprietary projects, and agreement will be negotiated, “which will include full cost recovery,” Energy said.

The INCITE centers have implemented cybersecurity programs at a moderate baseline with appropriate security controls as outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Special Publication 800-53.

“Risk is currently mitigated using available enterprise infrastructure and network-based tools to provide perimeter protection and vulnerability resolution,” Energy said. But the high performance computing centers “cannot guarantee zero risks to information stored on its systems. Requests for processing sensitive (e.g., proprietary or export-controlled) data must therefore be clearly identified in the proposal.”

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.