Obama’s 2016 Budget Boosts R&D, Exascale Funding

By Tiffany Trader

February 4, 2015

On Monday, the Obama administration sent its FY 2016 budget request to Congress for the new fiscal year starting October 1. A chapter on Research and Development prepared by the Office of Management and Budget states that the Administration is seeking an increase of 5.5 percent for all federal R&D over current levels for a total of $146 billion.

The report says such investments are necessary to maintain US leadership in science and technology to promote sustainable growth and address issues like job creation, food safety, climate change, and to ensure the health and security of the nation. Other focus points include staying ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, finding cures to Alzheimer’s and other diseases, developing new clean energy technologies, and promoting new advanced manufacturing opportunities.

The OMB identified the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, and the laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology as “three key basic research agencies.” The total budget proposed for these agencies is set to go up by 5.3 percent to $13.8 billion, an increase of $0.7 billion over current enacted levels.

Of these three agencies, the DOE’s Office of Science budget will likely hold the most interest for HPC-watchers, especially as it relates to larger systems and exascale-focused programs. The Office of Science highlighted its portion of the budget in a presentation prepared by Dr. Patricia M. Dehmer, Acting Director for the Office of Science. The agency, which “runs the world’s largest collection of scientific user facilities (aka research infrastructure) operated by a single organization in the world,” is requesting $5.3 billion, nearly $300 million more than 2015 figures, an increase of 5.4 percent.

Exascale computing is a top priority across the Office of Science, according to the request, such that dedicated exascale funding at the four DOE crosscuts – Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR), Basic Energy Sciences (BES), Biological and Environmental Research (BER), and Safeguards and Security – is set to go from $99,000,000 (FY2015) to $208,624,000 (FY2016).

“The advanced computing crosscut addresses the needs of SC, NNSA, and the energy technology offices in the development of advanced computing technologies to provide better understanding complex physical systems,” notes Dehmer. “BES funding for exascale is the FY 2016 request for Computational Materials Sciences; BER funding is for Climate Model Development and Validation.”

Out of the four crosscuts, the ASCR’s role is to expand the nation’s computational and networking capabilities in order to extend the frontiers of science and technology. “This includes supporting the development of computing systems and architectures designed to deliver on the promise of exascale science,” notes the agency. The President is seeking $620,994,000 for the ASCR program in 2016, an increase of 14.8 percent.

The funds will be directed to support “engagement with HPC vendors to design and develop exascale node technologies and exascale hardware and software computer designs at the system level; hardware architectures and system software, and programming for energy-efficient, data-intensive applications.”

Other pieces of the ASCR roadmap include the mandate to maintain operations with >90 percent availability, deployment of a 10-40 petaflop upgrade at National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), and continued preparations for 75-200 petaflop upgrades at Oak Ridge Leadership Facility (ORLF) and Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF).

The Office of Science lays out the upgrade paths for NERSC, OLCF and ALCF with supercomputers Cori, Summit, and Aurora presented as successors to Edison, Titan, and Mira (respectively). While Cori and Summit were announced previously, this is the first time that we are hearing about Aurora, which along with Summit and Sierra, falls under the CORAL collaboration framework. Recall CORAL was formed by Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore, and Argonne national laboratories to jointly acquire leadership computing systems for DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Office of Science. Sierra is headed for Lawrence Livermore, where it will be essential to security and weapons stockpile management. (As an LLNL system, Sierra falls under the domain of the NNSA and therefore does not appear in the Office of Science budget.)

As the chart below shows, the planned upgrade for ALCF is scheduled for the 2018-2019 timeframe. The listed peak performance of more than 150 petaflops would give Aurora at least 15 times more computing power than its predecessor, Mira, the 10-petaflops IBM Blue Gene/Q that was installed in January 2012.

ASCR Upgrades at a Glance 2016 budget


Funding allocated to the ASCR program would also be directed to the following efforts:

  • Accelerating progress in scientific computing through SciDac partnerships.
  • Fully funding a new cohort of students through the restored Computational Science Graduate Fellowship.
  • Conducting mathematics research to address the challenges of increasing complexity; as well as computer science research in order to address the productivity and integrity of HPC systems and simulations and support data management, analysis and visualization techniques.
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