DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar Interviewed at SC18

By Tiffany Trader

November 21, 2018

During the 30th annual SC conference in Dallas last week, SC18 hosted U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul M. Dabbar. In attendance Nov. 13-14, Dabbar delivered remarks at the Top500 panel, met with a number of industry stakeholders and toured the show floor. He also met with HPCwire for an interview, where we discussed the role of the DOE in advancing leadership computing.

Dabbar serves as the Department’s principal advisor on fundamental scientific research in high energy and nuclear physics; advanced computing; fusion; biological and environmental research; and has direct management over many of DOE’s national labs that run data-intensive experiments.

HPCwire: We’re here at SC18, which marks the 30th anniversary of the Supercomputing Conference since it started in 1988, with Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar — what prompted this level of involvement and participation?

Paul Dabbar: Supercomputing is at the high end of our focus at the Department of Energy in terms of asking for and getting increased dollars to invest. Since the leadership team’s been in place here for a couple of years, our budget for advanced computing is up 45 percent. The whole Office of Science is up almost 25 percent, and there’s a broad theme of investment in the sciences. As a part of that very broad-based increase in construction on all sorts of of user facilities, whether it’s in high-energy particle physics, nuclear physics, genomics and biology and so on, a common theme is that we are building capabilities in which for us to optimize, and frankly for the amount of data that we’re going to be creating across the whole of the science complex for us to be able to get great use of that. And not only for us, but the work that we do internationally with CERN and all the other big science user facilities. For us to innovate and identify the problems in the universe to go attack requires increasingly higher levels of of computing power.

As we looked at what’s a common thread of facilities and capabilities that we need across all of those particular science areas, HPC and the whole computing area is a common thread for us to optimize across everything. So that’s been our big push. Obviously it’s been based on the backs of a number of people here at the department who have been working on this for decades and we were lucky as a leadership team to come in and for that groundwork to be there for us to accelerate the growth of building out the groundwork of those capabilities.

HPCwire: You spoke at the Top500 panel on Tuesday night, which discusses major trends in leadership computing, and stated this is a critical and exciting time for science and supercomputing, what’s behind that statement?

Dabbar: We’ve seen from a broader science point of view we’re at the crux of a number of particularly exciting areas in science. I think if we could apply the right amount of capital and the right brain power we can make some really material moves in science across the world. The world is at the cusp of making dramatic moves in artificial intelligence and machine learning, quantum information science, space exploration, advanced and sustainable energy, advanced mobility and genomics. So when you think about the areas of the sciences broadly speaking, we are very excited about those opportunities.

We are very blessed that there is a consensus that increased investment is needed and as I mentioned the Office of Science is up almost 25 percent this year in terms of spending but the National Institutes of Health are up about 20 percent, the National Science Foundation is up about 10 percent. There’s been broad support for increased federal dollars against it because the opportunity is there and people see that this is a place for driving the country and driving the world and innovation. How does HPC factor into that? Clearly when you think about all those different sciences, data and optimizing data is a big part of each and every one of those. So once again it’s a common thread across all the sciences and so it’s very important for us. It’s also important for us economically for the United States. We know that effectively we are the pointy end of a spear. We are the seed money that moves things along. So us as not only as a basic researcher in many areas associated with materials and characterization that are applicable to microelectronics.

We know also that we are the high-end consumer of the products. We helped drive the industry. We drive it for our own purposes, effectively from a science and research point of view. But we know as we seed the whole industry to develop HPC to the next cutting-edge point we know that we are seeding the whole country and a whole of the industry that has applications far beyond our particular area.

HPCwire: The biannual list of the world’s fastest computers was just announced with DOE labs Oak Ridge and Livermore operating the top two systems Summit and Sierra, and five of the top ten machines. What is the significance of having these very powerful computers within a global context, where we see other nations are also making significant advances in computing?

Dabbar: We focus a little bit less on exact rankings versus capabilities. Clearly being at the front end of capabilities means that everything I’ve been discussing regarding all of our needs means that we have the capability of basically leading and using all of the data that we create across the science complex. That’s the first and foremost aspect. I do think there’s an important secondary aspect to it which is at the end of the day, when we build large user facilities we are a beacon to the science world. And one of the things that is really unique about the United States and how we run the science complex and National Labs is that we are an open transnational, merit-based, proposal-based use of our facilities, and whether it’s a light source or it’s a computing facility, people propose based on merit from anywhere in the world. The U.S. is only five percent of the world’s population and we have a great history of having people coming to this country, including vast amounts of our lab complex, from our friends all around the world who are very open to open access and cooperative access to science and research. So having the best in the world draws the best in the world from here in the United States from all over the world to drive science and research are in the United States. I think that’s an important aspect to us having these capabilities.

HPCwire: With CORAL-2, the second procurement project for the Collaboration of Oak Ridge Argonne and Livermore, the U.S. has declared its intention to spend up to $1.8 billion on two or potentially three exascale supercomputers. What is the status of this project?

Dabbar: Clearly as we look at CORAL-2, that’s the next solicitation of the two machines [at Oak Ridge and Livermore] and possibly an upgrade at Argonne [editor’s note: i.e., an upgrade to Aurora 2021]. So that process is moving along well. We’ve received proposals and we’re looking at finalizing our decision. We are going to be making a decision and we are going to be moving forward. The exact architecture and the exact suppliers have not been finalized yet but we are getting very close on that as we took proposals on that several months ago.

Clearly we have the dollars as I was commenting from a budget point of view for us to go and execute and we received great proposals so we have no problems with that. We are very much heading down the road of securing those.

HPCwire: What is the role of the government in funding these large projects?

Dabbar: I spend a lot of time with our partners who help us with our labs or work on various other kinds of grant programs at MIT and Caltech and Stanford and Princeton. The reality is when you think about having very large user facilities that can have broad based access with all sort of researchers, from not only inside our labs but from universities all over the U.S. and all over the world, someone has to build them. And notwithstanding the wonderful endowments of Princeton and MIT and Harvard and Stanford, the resources to pull together stadium-sized light sources that are miles long when it comes to and x-ray free-electron laser, or a computing facility, these are dollar amounts that even the most well-endowed of non-government science organizations would have a hard time doing. And so once again, I think it’s very important and there’s a long history that to a large degree started right after World War II around the importance of having a federal footprint that we could have these facilities that could be open to a broad range of researchers. That’s the core of what we are as a National Lab complex. That’s the basis of who we are. And so this is just an evolution of the next range of us pushing technology in HPC amongst other user facilities for us to invest. And we’re very gratified that we see the nation supporting that at all time high levels.

HPCwire: Having supercomputers, the hardware, is important, but there is no benefit to these powerful machines without the people — people to design and build and program them and also the computational scientists and engineers who utilize them. What role does the DOE have in training and workforce development to ensure a sustainable talent pipeline?

Dabbar: To a reasonable degree, the department takes the lead on hardware, meaning we build a lot of user facilities the others would have a hard time building as I was commenting to. And then we have access to those, both with our own researchers to use them as well as people from outside the lab complex. Part of it is dealing with the actual research itself and moving forward the bounds of knowledge on a particular topic, but we know that we helped develop the whole workforce of the whole chain of everything that we do research on, from the university level and up. To a large degree, we are a very heavy funder of graduate school training, effectively, through our grant processes. So as we go through each and every one of our particular areas of science, last year’s number was $3.1 billion a year of grants; this year’s number will be a little higher.

The grants that go out to a large degree are spread to universities all over the United States. A principal investigator makes a grant proposal whether it’s to use a particular HPC machine or to use a light source or to do some research at their own lab or university. So we spread around a lot of money to help drive research, but we clearly know a secondary aspect of that is that the PI has a whole bunch of grad students and others that are supporting them, undergrads, that are supporting them in the labs. So whenever I go to universities, I hear about people who receive our grants who are working on something very specific and it’s not just the principal investigator who may be a senior researcher or a professor at a university but the money flows down all the way through in terms of all the lab support all the research support. We know a very important secondary aspect of our entire grant program is that we feed the whole system in terms of STEM, in terms of education. It’s an important part of not only the DOE, but the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the whole federal complex–this is a big part of what we do for the nation.

HPCwire: Here at Supercomputing and within the high-performance computing sphere, there is ongoing outreach to communicate the value of HPC to the broader community. How do you explain to colleagues, stakeholders and everyday people why supercomputing is important and why it’s worth investing in?

Dabbar: I think the world is increasingly becoming knowledgeable about the importance of computing power, of data. Obviously there are broad discussions and use by the broad community of all sorts of information technology that just a decade ago just was not even available. So I think it’s much easier to discuss this for people to have knowledge of the importance of this, than not so many years ago. I think the importance is that many people don’t realize that the National Labs and what we do and research even exist, and that’s actually one of the big challenges that I have. It’s not [around the value of] big data and information technology and artificial intelligence — the average person actually gets a lot of the basics of those now nowadays. But what about the big facilities? What are the big things worked on? Why is it important to have those? I think the knowledge of that is actually not good at all. So one of the things that Secretary Rick Perry and myself and the rest of the leadership team have been trying very hard to do is to increase communication around the National Lab complex capabilities and what we do, such as Sierra, such as Summit, such as high performance computing, and what we do with those capabilities within the broader user facility complex for science. We will try to make a little dent in that while we are in leadership in this position.

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!

Is Amazon’s Plunge into Server Chips a Watershed Moment?

December 11, 2018

For several years now the big cloud providers – Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, et al – have been transforming from technology consumers into technology creators in hardware and software. The most recent example bei Read more…

By John Russell

Mellanox Uses Univa to Extend Silicon Design HPC Operation to Azure

December 11, 2018

Call it a corollary to Murphy’s Law: When a system is most in demand, when end users are most dependent on the system performing as required, when it’s crunch time – that’s when the system is most likely to blow up. Or make you wait in line to use it. Read more…

By Doug Black

Clemson’s Cautionary Cryptomining Tale

December 11, 2018

In some ways, the bigger the computer, the more vulnerable it is to cryptomining as Clemson University discovered after cryptominers dug into its Palmetto supercomputer. When a number of nodes on Clemson University’s P Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Blurring the Lines Between HPC and AI @ SC18

The dominant topic at SC18 was the convergence of HPC and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with some of the biggest research and enterprise HPC users providing perspectives on how HPC and AI are moving closer together. Read more…

Data West Brings Technology Leaders to SDSC

December 6, 2018

Data and technology enthusiasts from around the world descended upon the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) for the third annual Data West conference, which is taking place this week on the campus of the University o Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Topology Can Help Us Find Patterns in Weather

December 6, 2018

Topology--–the study of shapes-- seems to be all the rage. You could even say that data has shape, and shape matters. Shapes are comfortable and familiar conc Read more…

By James Reinders

Zettascale by 2035? China Thinks So

December 6, 2018

Exascale machines (of at least a 1 exaflops peak) are anticipated to arrive by around 2020, a few years behind original predictions; and given extreme-scale performance challenges are not getting any easier, it makes sense that researchers are already looking ahead to the next big 1,000x performance goal post: zettascale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Robust Quantum Computers Still a Decade Away, Says Nat’l Academies Report

December 5, 2018

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine yesterday released a report – Quantum Computing: Progress and Prospects – whose optimism about Read more…

By John Russell

Revisiting the 2008 Exascale Computing Study at SC18

November 29, 2018

A report published a decade ago conveyed the results of a study aimed at determining if it were possible to achieve 1000X the computational power of the the Read more…

By Scott Gibson

AWS Debuts Lustre as a Service, Accelerates Data Transfer

November 28, 2018

From the Amazon re:Invent main stage in Las Vegas today, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy introduced Amazon FSx for Lustre, citing a growing body of applicati Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Launches First Arm Cloud Instances

November 28, 2018

AWS, a macrocosm of the emerging high-performance technology landscape, wants to be everywhere you want to be and offer everything you want to use (or at least Read more…

By Doug Black

Move Over Lustre & Spectrum Scale – Here Comes BeeGFS?

November 26, 2018

Is BeeGFS – the parallel file system with European roots – on a path to compete with Lustre and Spectrum Scale worldwide in HPC environments? Frank Herold Read more…

By John Russell

DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar Interviewed at SC18

November 21, 2018

During the 30th annual SC conference in Dallas last week, SC18 hosted U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul M. Dabbar. In attendance Nov. 13-14, Dabbar delivered remarks at the Top500 panel, met with a number of industry stakeholders and toured the show floor. He also met with HPCwire for an interview, where we discussed the role of the DOE in advancing leadership computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, 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

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

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

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

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

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
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

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

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

The Convergence of Big Data and Extreme-Scale HPC

August 31, 2018

As we are heading towards extreme-scale HPC coupled with data intensive analytics like machine learning, the necessary integration of big data and HPC is a curr Read more…

By Rob Farber

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