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HPC: Fueling the government’s next-generation technology programs

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Last year, President Barack Obama announced the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), which goes beyond the objectives of previous programs launched by the U.S. government to support the large supercomputing laboratories trying to answer our biggest questions.

Those initiatives include the next-generation Aurora system for computational science and engineering being built at Argonne National Laboratory; the efforts of government agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to reach Americans where they live; and researchers at small and large universities nationwide who are using high-performance computing in innovative ways to answer questions that matter to a wide range of people.

As computing technology evolves to solve problems more quickly and as HPC tools, including software, become less of a barrier to nontechnical users, HPC becomes a better, more enticing and available resource for more researchers, whoever they might be and whatever problems they're working on.

I recently attended the HPC User Forum in Austin, Texas, where Ruby Mendenhall, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presented her work on using big data and HPC to study the voices of African-American women through history. Here is an important example of how HPC, artificial intelligence and big data can come together and help nontechnical researchers uncover and reveal insights that can have a critically important impact on our society.

Such an application would not have been considered just a few years ago because of the limited access some scholars had to HPC and the tools needed for supercomputing and data analytics. Innovative technology companies are working hard to make HPC easier to use and access, which is one of NSCI's five strategic objectives.

Although Intel's commitment to those objectives includes our involvement in providing the hardware computing power for Aurora, a large part of our work focuses on software because making the software easier to use is a key part of reducing the barriers to democratization of HPC. For instance, OpenHPC -- where industry collaborates to develop an all-encompassing, end-to-end open-source software stack for HPC -- supports an NSCI strategic goal to create a more holistic approach that leads to an enduring national HPC ecosystem.

Then there are initiatives that go beyond NSCI. A core example of the incredible value of HPC is the Cancer Moonshot program. That massive effort, driven by government and the private sector, will involve a number of technology capabilities that align with the work being done in the life sciences by Intel and other companies. HPC is advancing how health care is delivered by bringing technology and software innovations to bear on accelerating cancer research.

NSCI and the Cancer Moonshot are only two of the many government efforts that focus on advances in computing and greater collaboration between industry and government. The internet of things, wearables, autonomous systems and mobile technologies are important to many federal programs at the departments of Energy, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation and others. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has described a virtuous cycle of connected devices that are well aligned with the needs of government programs at those agencies, whether they support edge analytics for autonomous driving vehicles, customized functions for specific government missions or a host of other capabilities the U.S. government is interested in.

Intel and other industry leaders are helping to ensure that technologies are being developed to meet national computing needs, advance computing into the exascale era and make those technologies available to a wider range of consumers for the betterment of the world.

About the Author

Neil Green is president of Intel Federal.

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