Subcommittee Discusses High Performance Computing Priorities

May 22, 2013
Subcommittee Discusses High Performance Computing Priorities

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing to examine high performance computing research and development challenges and opportunities, specifically as they relate to exascale computing. “Exascale” refers to the next generation of supercomputers in general, but it also refers to a computing system that would be able to carry out a million trillion operations per second. 

Testifying before the Subcommittee were Dr. Roscoe Giles, Chairman of the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee; Dr. Rick Stevens, Associate Laboratory Director for Computing, Environment and Life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory; Ms. Dona Crawford, Associate Director for Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Dr. Daniel Reed, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Iowa.

The witness panel discussed specific achievements made possible by high performance computing (HPC) while Members highlighted the role government investments play in continuing to advance the scientific frontier through HPC research and development. As Ms. Dona Crawford stated in her testimony, “Over the last two decades, supercomputers have transformed the way the world conducts scientific research and has enabled discovery and development across a broad set of disciplines. HPC simulations have advanced medicine, energy, aviation, and manufacturing domains. The massive, complex simulations that run on today’s HPC allow us to explore fields such as global food, water, and energy supplies, as well as tackle problems for which experiments are impractical, hazardous, or prohibitively expensive.”

Exascale computing will be an important part of a larger effort to improve the U.S.’s overall high-end computing capability to address a broad range of academic, industrial, and national security needs. While research in next generation computing architecture and software continues to require strategic government investments, Members also explored the significant economic benefits that can arise from full utilization of existing high performance computing capabilities in ongoing scientific research.

Ranking Member Swalwell (D-CA) emphasized this approach in his opening statement. “As we pursue the next generation of supercomputing capabilities, which I fully support, [we must] also ensure that the nation is getting the most bang per buck out of our current world-leading facilities. It is noteworthy that while Lawrence Livermore, Argonne, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories - three of the most powerful supercomputers in the world - are addressing incredibly important scientific issues that really require their advanced computing capabilities, Lawrence Berkeley’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center actually serves thousands of more users with only a fraction of those leadership machines’ computing power. The point is, not every computational research effort requires the fastest, most sophisticated system we can possibly build, and I think we also need to do more to make what’s sometimes called ‘capacity’ supercomputing more accessible to both the academic and industrial research communities that could benefit.”

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) echoed the sentiments of other members during his questions to the witness panel. “Exascale computing is important, but we must ensure that our pursuit of the next great supercomputing breakthrough does not come at the expense of other vital research and development activities currently ongoing or in development at our national laboratories.”