The COVID-19 HPC Consortium Looks Ahead to a ‘National Strategic Computing Reserve’

By Oliver Peckham

March 26, 2021

Almost exactly a year ago, the White House announced an ambitious collaboration across academia, government and private business: the COVID-19 HPC Consortium. Over the intervening 12 months, the consortium brought together 43 high-profile members, 600 petaflops of compute power and extensive expertise to provide 98 teams across 17 countries with the computational resources they required to fight COVID-19 through cutting-edge research. “And all of it was achieved without exchange of money or contracts, but rather simply thanks to the donation of time, talent and determination,” said Dario Gil, director of IBM Research. “The consortium is proof that we were able to act fast and act together.”

The current numbers of the COVID-19 HPC Consortium.

But even with the pandemic waning, the consortium is still meeting weekly – and the individuals and institutions behind the massive effort aren’t resting on their laurels. In the one-year update for the COVID-19 HPC Consortium, many of them spent their time throwing their support behind an even more ambitious, longer-term project: a National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR).


What would the NSCR look like?

“Now, it’s time to go even further,” Gil said. “We should use the lessons we’ve learned so far thanks to the consortium, the knowledge and the experience gained this past year, to address future global crises. We should create a broader international organization exactly for that. … A few months ago, building on the consortium’s foundation, we started developing [the NSCR].”

The NSCR, Gil explained, would not serve a specific class of crisis. Rather, it would be a crisis catch-all, ready to spin up at a moment’s notice to serve any urgent need in the public interest. “Computing is a core element of so many important capabilities. It’s essential to properly respond to public crises, to ensure public health and safety and to protect critical resources and infrastructure,” Gil said, offering space missions, hurricanes, earthquakes, oil spills, wildfires, and yes, pandemics as examples of potential applications for the NSCR.

In a panel discussion during the one-year update, much of the conversation revolved around the idea of the NSCR. 

“It’s clear from the COVID-19 experience … that computing and data analysis will play an increasingly important role in addressing future national emergencies, whether they will be pandemics or other events,” said Manish Parashar, office director of the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation (NSF). “Our national advanced computing infrastructure that spans academia, government, industry and non-profits, can be a strategic national asset and can serve as an important tool in our response to these events if it can be mobilized and made available to researchers quickly and in an agile way as we did in response to COVID-19.”

The NSCR, Parashar explained, was not only necessary to take advantage of opportunities in computing, but also to address problems that have arisen during the operation of the COVID-19 HPC Consortium.

“The consortium has also taught us that using the ad-hoc structural processes – as we did in the case of the HPC consortium due to the urgency of the situation – without longer-term planning can have some undesired impacts,” Parashar said. Researchers, he elaborated, had to suddenly backburner other important science and engineering projects, delaying advances in the broader research ecosystem and impacting U.S. competitiveness. Furthermore, many of the participating researchers had to work overtime during an already psychologically stressful pandemic, wearing them thin.

The panelists: Kelvin Droegemeier, Pat Falcon, Geralyn Miller and Manish Parashar.

What would the NSCR need to succeed?

The NSCR has already moved out of the purely conceptual stages – if just barely. Just before Christmas, the NSF and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Request for Information (RFI) on “Potential Concepts and Approaches for a National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR).” “The NSCR,” the RFI reads, “may be envisioned as a coalition of experts and resource providers that could be mobilized quickly to provide critical computational resources (including compute, software, data, and technical expertise) in times of urgent need.”

The RFI received several responses, Parashar revealed in the panel. “The responses consistently and very strongly expressed support for this concept of a National Strategic Computing Reserve, as well as its potential positive impacts,” he said, adding that they highlighted the need for well-defined operations, as well as strong governance and oversight structures. “For example, we need clearly defined processes for activating the reserve and for returning to normal operations when the role of the reserve has completed, right?”

The panelists acknowledged that the NSCR will need to be carefully structured to both maximize benefits and minimize pitfalls. Parashar, for his part, highlighted the importance of working out data-sharing and IP agreements ahead of time to get in front of any potential delays imposed by related concerns at the onset of a crisis. Pat Falcone, deputy director for science and technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), also spoke to battle-readiness, emphasizing the need for any NSCR to have both the commitment and the resources to practice: “Rehearsals matter. Practice matters,” she said. 

Kelvin Droegemeier, who directed the OSTP through the pandemic until January, introduced two points for consideration: first, the general need for the NSCR to minimize bureaucracy to expedite innovation; second, the need for clear, consistent messaging from a “single authoritative source” to minimize disinformation and confusion.

Finally, Geralyn Miller, senior director of the AI for Good Research Lab at Microsoft, stressed the importance of building a more proactively inclusive consortium through diversity in the types of proposals and the people and institutions submitting them. 

“Maybe there is a way in the future to provide a little more upfront formal mentoring for the technical review process,” she said. “We might have a diverse set of proposals coming in from people – for example, early-career PIs – or it could be people who might not typically apply for this type of research, and helping them shore up that proposal … not only helps us review it properly but also helps the investigator, as well.”


A way to rebuild

“This consortium is a realization of my long-held belief that when the world needs us, the science and technology community will be there to help,” said Maria Zuber, vice president for research at MIT, adding: “[The NSCR] is one of the many ways that we can address President Biden’s stated intention to rebuild trust in science and ensure the power of science is at the forefront of America build back better.”

In closing, Gil compared the idea of the NSCR to institutions like DARPA and NASA that emerged from the stressors of the Cold War. “Perhaps also in the context of these crises, we will see evolving institutions in science and technology – and … [that] could be the very beginning of what we’re trying to create here together.”

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!

Rockport Networks Launches 300 Gbps Switchless Fabric, Reveals 396-Node Deployment at TACC

October 27, 2021

Rockport Networks emerged from stealth this week with the launch of its 300 Gbps switchless networking architecture focused on the needs of the high-performance computing and the advanced-scale AI market. Early customers Read more…

AWS Adds Gaudi-Powered, ML-Optimized EC2 DL1 Instances, Now in GA

October 27, 2021

As machine learning becomes a dominating use case for local and cloud computing, companies are racing to provide solutions specifically optimized and accelerated for AI applications. Now, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is int Read more…

Fireside Chat with LBNL’s Advanced Quantum Testbed Director

October 26, 2021

Last week, Irfan Siddiqi led a “fireside chat” with a few media and analysts to introduce the Department of Energy’s relatively new Advanced Quantum Testbed (AQT), which is based at Lawrence Berkeley National Labor Read more…

Graphcore Introduces Larger-Than-Ever IPU-Based Pods

October 22, 2021

After launching its second-generation intelligence processing units (IPUs) in 2020, four years after emerging from stealth, Graphcore is now boosting its product line with its largest commercially-available IPU-based sys Read more…

Quantum Chemistry Project to Be Among the First on EuroHPC’s LUMI System

October 22, 2021

Finland’s CSC has just installed the first module of LUMI, a 550-peak petaflops system supported by the European Union’s EuroHPC Joint Undertaking. While LUMI -- pictured in the header -- isn’t slated to complete i Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 577238446

Putting bitrates into perspective

Recently, we talked about the advances NICE DCV has made to push pixels from cloud-hosted desktops or applications over the internet even more efficiently than before. Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

Rockport Networks Launches 300 Gbps Switchless Fabric, Reveals 396-Node Deployment at TACC

October 27, 2021

Rockport Networks emerged from stealth this week with the launch of its 300 Gbps switchless networking architecture focused on the needs of the high-performance Read more…

AWS Adds Gaudi-Powered, ML-Optimized EC2 DL1 Instances, Now in GA

October 27, 2021

As machine learning becomes a dominating use case for local and cloud computing, companies are racing to provide solutions specifically optimized and accelerate Read more…

Fireside Chat with LBNL’s Advanced Quantum Testbed Director

October 26, 2021

Last week, Irfan Siddiqi led a “fireside chat” with a few media and analysts to introduce the Department of Energy’s relatively new Advanced Quantum Testb Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat fo Read more…

LLNL Prepares the Water and Power Infrastructure for El Capitan

October 21, 2021

When it’s (ostensibly) ready in early 2023, El Capitan is expected to deliver in excess of two exaflops of peak computing power – around four times the powe Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Quantum Workforce – NSTC Report Highlights Need for International Talent

October 13, 2021

Attracting and training the needed quantum workforce to fuel the ongoing quantum information sciences (QIS) revolution is a hot topic these days. Last week, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council issued a report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science... Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

US Closes in on Exascale: Frontier Installation Is Underway

September 29, 2021

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, held by Zoom this week (Sept. 29-30), it was revealed that the Frontier supercomputer is currently being installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership... Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer... Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make i Read more…

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat fo Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire