Supercomputing partnerships win high marks

Companies cite satisfaction with their HPC partners

When the government shares its supercomputing resources with businesses, it furthers its own projects and produces measurable payoffs for the private sector, two new federally funded studies have concluded.

Earlier this month, the Council on Competitiveness released reports on companies’ satisfaction with public/private partnerships that provide access to high-performance computing (HPC) systems and expertise.

With the research firm IDC, the council surveyed officials from 12 companies involved in a university HPC consortium organized by the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Started in 1997, the consortium, known as the Academic Strategic Alliance Program (ASAP), combines the resources of research centers at Stanford University, University of Utah, University of Chicago, California Institute of Technology and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The council concluded in one of the two reports that ASAP provides an opportunity for NNSA to realize “an enhanced return on the government’s investment in HPC assets.” Industry reaps rewards, too. Half the companies polled assigned a dollar value of $200,000 to $1 million to the return on their partnerships.

One-third of the survey respondents further reported they had achieved a breakthrough or “discovered something totally new” through the program. All participants said they would be willing to pair with their academic partners again.

NNSA officials said they established the HPC alliance program to apply academic expertise to complex problems whose challenges are similar to the nation’s nuclear security problems. The alliance’s universities — on their own and with their own resources — chose to partner with companies.

“While NNSA encourages university/industry partnerships to apply HPC simulations to real-world problems, NNSA will not directly get involved in the relationship between the university center and industry,” said Dimitri Kusnezov, director of NNSA’s Office of Advanced Simulation and Computing.

A second survey examined the experiences of 40 companies that partner with the National Science Foundation through the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the San Diego Supercomputing Center and the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

Nearly all those interviewed said the NSF partnerships, which lasted an average of more than eight years, contributed to their research and development efforts. More than half reported the collaborations had led to a breakthrough.

Sixteen businesses assigned a dollar value of $100,000 to $57 million to those partnerships.

“The companies view the NSF center’s HPC resources as a hidden gem and believe NSF has not just an opportunity but a responsibility to market and promote these resources far more aggressively to U.S. businesses that exploit or wish to exploit HPC,” the report states.

NSF officials said they are reviewing the council’s recommendations to determine areas for improvement.

“It certainly was not the intent to make these HPC resources a hidden gem, but we are certainly pleased the commercial sector appreciates the value of both the computational [facilities] and expertise available at these sites,” said Jose Munoz, deputy director of NSF’s Office of Cyberinfrastructure and a senior scientific adviser.


Council reports benefits from HPC partnershipsA new Council on Competitiveness study found that partnerships between high-performance computing research centers and businesses produce the following mutual benefits, among others.

  • They help eliminate two major barriers that prevent widespread private-sector adoption of high-performance computing: lack of access to large-scale systems and lack of access to research experts.

  • They encourage companies to buy their own high-performance computing systems, thereby accelerating market growth and helping lower the future costs of such systems.

  • They help meet the government’s mission-critical needs and accelerate innovation.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above