SC17 Preview: The National Strategic Computing Initiative

By Alex R. Larzelere

November 2, 2017

In Washington, the conventional wisdom is that an initiative started by one presidential administration will not survive into a new one. This seemed to be particularly true with the transition of the Obama administration into the Trump administration. However, an exception to this unwritten rule may be the case of an initiative to support exascale, data analytics, “post-Moore’s Law” computing and the HPC ecosystem. The jury is still out, but the signs are starting to look good.

In the summer of 2014, during the tail-end of the Obama administration, a team at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) started to formulate what would become known as the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). Over the next year, the NSCI was defined and refined through an interagency process and interactions with computer companies and industry users of high performance computing. Although the initiative was formally started by President Obama on July 29, 2015, support by the US federal government for advanced computing is not new, nor is the concept of multi-agency national strategic computing programs. For example, precedents include the Strategic Computing Initiative of the 1980s, the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991, and the High Productivity Computing Systems program of the 2000s. Information concerning NSCI can be found at https://www.nitrd.gov/nsci/.

NSCI recognizes the value of US investments in cutting-edge, high-performance computing for national security, economic security, and scientific discovery. It directs the administration to take an “whole of government” approach to continuing and expanding those activities. The initiative puts the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation into leadership roles to coordinate those efforts. The initiative also identifies different agencies to conduct foundational R&D and be involved with deployment and implementation. The “whole of government” approach is quite important to collect and coordinate the resources (i.e. funding) to achieve the NSCI goals.

There are five strategic objectives for this initiative. The first is to accelerate the delivery of a “capable exascale computing system” (defined as the integration of hardware and software capability to deliver approximately 100 times the performance of current 10-petaflop systems across a range of applications representing government needs). The second seeks to increase the coherence between traditional modeling and simulation and large data analytics. The third objective is to establish, over the next 15 years, a viable path forward for advanced computing in the “post Moore’s Law era.” The fourth objective seeks to increase the capacity and capability of the entire HPC ecosystem, both human and technical. Finally, the fifth NSCI objective is to implement enduring public-private collaborations to ensure that the benefits of the initiative are shared between the government and the industrial and academic sectors of the economy.

An NSCI Joint Program Office (JPO) has been established with representatives from the lead agencies (DOD, DOE, and NSF). There was also a decision to have the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD)’s National Coordination Office (NCO) to act as the communications arm for the initiative. Also, an Executive Council led by the directors of OSTP and the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) has been established and in July of 2016 published a Strategic Plan for the initiative.

The bad news is that there were not any formally designated funds for NSCI identified in the President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 request (although the initiative was mentioned in several places). In the federal government that could be the “kiss of death.” An initiative without funding often withers away and dies. The encouraging thing about the NSCI is that it may be okay that there is no specifically designated funding. The reason for this is that there other currently funded activities at the lead agencies that already align with the goals of the NSCI. Therefore, the only thing needed for “NSCI implementation” is for these activities to work in a coordinated way and that is already happening, to some degree, through the JPO. The synergy of the currently funded NSCI relevant activities provides additional hope that the initiative will survive the transition.

Other pieces of good news include the fact that the staff at the White House’s OSTP is growing and we understand has been briefed on the initiative. We also heard that the White House’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Michael Kratsios, has been briefed on NSCI. Another very good sign was that on August 17th, Mike Mulvaney of OMB and Michael Kratsios issued the Administration’s R&D budget priorities. One of those, under the category of Military Superiority, was the call for the U.S. to maintain its leadership in future computing capabilities. Also, under the category of American Prosperity, the budget priorities expressed an interest in R&D in machine learning and quantum computing. Finally, there was direction given for the coordination of new R&D efforts to avoid duplication with existing efforts, which is what the NSCI JPO is already doing.

More specific information about the status of the NSCI will be available at the upcoming Birds of a Feather session at the SC17 conference (5:15 pm, Wed 11/15, Room 601). There, current members of the JPO (Mark Sims of DOD, William Harrod of DOE, and Irene Qualters of NSF) will be able to provide the latest and greatest about the initiative.

For the initiative to survive, the new administration will need to take ownership. Sometimes, with an administration shift, this may involve adjusting its scope. However, there has been previous initiatives that successfully made the administration leap intact (an example is the DOE Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI)). These tend to be initiatives that have a clear and compelling reason to exist and a sound organization that provides confidence that they will succeed.

Things continue to look good for funding the exascale program in the Trump administration. Also, the growth of large scale data analytics across the spectrum of government, industry, and academia probably means that there is a good chance that NSCI will survive the transition.

About the Author

Alex Larzelere is a senior fellow at the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, the president of Larzelere & Associates Consulting and HPCwire’s policy editor. He is currently a technologist, speaker and author on a number of disruptive technologies that include: advanced modeling and simulation; high performance computing; artificial intelligence; the Internet of Things; and additive manufacturing. Alex’s career has included time in federal service (working closely with DOE national labs), private industry, and as founder of a small business. Throughout that time, he led programs that implemented the use of cutting edge advanced computing technologies to enable high resolution, multi-physics simulations of complex physical systems. Alex is the author of “Delivering Insight: The History of the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI).”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement on Monday (Jan. 14 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This