high performance computing (Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com)

NSF offers extra access to academic supercomputers

As science and engineering researchers work with ever-larger datasets and cutting-edge tools for modeling, simulation and analytics, the need for access to more powerful computers has grown. In a Dec. 12 “Dear Colleague” letter, Jim Kurose, the National Science Foundation's assistant director of computer and information science and engineering, invited researchers working in science and engineering to apply for supplemental funding for access to two leadership-class academic supercomputers.

One of the systems is Blue Waters, installed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Powered up in March 2013, Blue Waters is a Cray XE system with over 22,000 AMD processors, 4,000 Nvidia graphics processor units, 26 petabytes of useable online storage for quick access and 380 petabytes of usable near-line tape storage. Blue Waters has supported research into hurricanes and tornadoes, supernovae, the formation of galaxies, earthquakes and more, the program's website said.  The entire project was projected to have $1.08 billion in direct economic impact on Illinois' economy.

Kurose said 125 million node hours will be available to researchers with active NSF awards who need significant computation resources to solve grand challenge problems in science and engineering. The machine will be available from April 2019 through December 2019, when Blue Waters ends operations.  Five to six requests will be approved, NSF said.

The second system, the Frontera supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin, will be the most powerful academic supercomputer ever deployed when it comes online in early 2019. It is a Dell EMC machine and features over 16,000 Intel Xeon chips, as well as significant GPU, storage and memory capabilities.

In August, NSF awarded $60 million to the Texas Advanced Computing Center to build Frontera.  It is expected to support the analysis of particle collisions from the Large Hadron Collider, global climate modeling, improved hurricane forecasting and multi-messenger astronomy, UT Austin officials said when the award was first made.

NSF-funded early-science teams will have access to 34 million node hours between April and December 2019 as they work closely with the Frontera project team to prepare the system for full operations. NSF said it anticipates distributing that time among 15 to 20 researchers.

Access requests should be submitted before Feb. 1, NSF said. More information is available here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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