Former National Center for Computational Sciences Director James Hack Retires from 40-Year Computing Career

January 13, 2021

Jan. 13, 2021 — Delivering scientific breakthroughs on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers requires leaders with the experience and knowledge of how to run the high-performance computing (HPC) centers that house them. That’s precisely why James Hack was hired in 2007—to direct the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS) at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

At the time, Hack was already well-known for his expertise in computational climate science. He had previously spent 23 years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) working first as a senior scientist, then as a climate modeling section head, and finally as a deputy director at the Climate & Global Dynamics Division at NCAR. During his first few years at NCCS, he established the Oak Ridge Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI) to integrate climate activities across ORNL, setting a vision for the climate science areas across the laboratory with the goal of recruiting and developing strong leaders in the field.

Hack’s background as a computational climate scientist eventually drove his success as director of NCCS, where he set the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) on a path to become a global force in scientific computing.

Last month, Hack retired from his 40-year career in computing and his 13-year career at the OLCF. During those 13 years, Hack saw the delivery of three Top500 computing systems: the Cray XT5 Jaguar, the Cray XK7 Titan, and the IBM AC922 Summit—the OLCF’s current flagship system and the fastest supercomputer in the nation. Despite his retirement, Hack’s leadership and the vision he founded for the OLCF will continue to benefit the center for years to come, including in the upcoming delivery and eventual scientific impact of the OLCF’s first exascale system, Frontier.

“Jim has been truly instrumental in driving the OLCF to where it is today,” said Barbara Helland, associate director of the DOE Office of Science’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program. “Over the years, he kept the center’s morale up, fostered a strong connection with the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility [ALCF], and consistently delivered breakthrough scientific results aligned with the Office of Science’s mission.”

Jim Hack in the Exploratory Visualization Environment for Research in Science and Technology, or EVEREST. Image Credit: Jason Richards, ORNL.

A computational science pipeline

When Hack founded the CCSI at ORNL in 2009, he sought to recruit, grow, and enhance scientific contributions and research throughout ORNL and the DOE national laboratory complex for the field of climate. And although he had only been hired at ORNL 2 years prior, it was not the first time he had set out to establish a pipeline for growth and scientific advancement in the national laboratory space.

In fact, one of his first initiatives to equip the next generation of computational scientists began even before his tenure at ORNL, in 1991, when he helped found the DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (CSGF). The CSGF has unique opportunities for PhD students using math and computers for their doctoral research. The program provides students with benefits such as a yearly stipend, paid tuition, and a 12-week practicum at one of the 21 DOE national laboratories or sites.

“Jim was one of the originators of the fellowship and has been a member of the CSGF steering committee since the program started,” said Judy Hill, a CSGF alumna and today the Section Head of Science Engagement at NCCS. In the past, Hill has credited the networking opportunities at CSGF for her original appointment at ORNL.

Helland, also one of the founders of CSGF, said, “He played an integral part in training the current generation of computational scientists.”

Setting science in motion with INCITE

One of Hack’s biggest contributions to the OLCF was in his stewardship of DOE’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment, or INCITE, program. The INCITE program awards time on the supercomputers at the OLCF and ALCF to researchers using HPC to solve “grand challenge” problems in science and engineering. The OLCF and ALCF are DOE Office of Science User Facilities located at ORNL and Argonne National Laboratory, respectively.

Throughout his time at the OLCF, Hack helped attract researchers to INCITE and improve the quality of both proposal reviewers and researchers in the program. He also kept the OLCF’s connection to ALCF and managed the centers’ joint INCITE call for proposals, viewing the success of the program as an ethical responsibility to the community.

As NCCS director, Hack led the INCITE allocation process each year, during which 11 National Academy–level panels determine which projects will receive allocations of computing time through INCITE.

Gina Tourassi was appointed director of NCCS at the end of 2019 as Hack transitioned to a strategic leadership role in CCSD for the remainder of his time at ORNL.

A vision for computing and beyond

Hack’s leadership of NCCS and contributions to the HPC community at ORNL ultimately transformed the center into the multiprogrammatic entity that it is today.

“When Jim came to ORNL in 2007, we were the OLCF. When he left, we were the OLCF, the US Air Force, the Compute and Data Environment for Science [CADES], and more,” said Ashley Barker, Section Head of Operations at NCCS. One of Hack’s first hires, Barker worked under him as the Group Leader of the OLCF’s previous User Assistance and Outreach Group for 11 years.

Aside from his professional accomplishments, Hack was a people person with vision for all-around success at the center.

“He cared about us—and not just as people who are delivering systems or supporting users,” Barker said. “If you engaged with him, he knew your children and your husband. He knew you as a person, and that really contributed to the health of the center overall.”

“Jim is one of those people that has enriched my life greatly,” Helland said. “He’s taught me many things, and he has forever changed the trajectory of computing in the DOE complex with the contributions he has made to students, staff, and the user community. I am grateful to have worked with him all these years.”

UT-Battelle LLC manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

Click here for the full article.


Source: Rachel McDowell, ORNL

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!

Nvidia Rolls Out Certified Server Program Targeting AI Applications

January 26, 2021

Nvidia today launched a certified systems program in which participating vendors can offer Nvidia-certified servers with up to eight A100 GPUs. Separate support contracts directly from Nvidia for the certified systems ar Read more…

By John Russell

XSEDE Supercomputers Square Off Against Ebola

January 26, 2021

COVID-19 may have dominated headlines and occupied much of the world’s scientific computing capacity over the last year, but many researchers continued their work to keep other deadly viruses at bay. One of those, Ebol Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in HPC Research: Galaxies, Fugaku, Electron Microscopes & More

January 25, 2021

In this regular feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Red Hat’s Disruption of CentOS Unleashes Storm of Dissent

January 22, 2021

Five weeks after angering much of the CentOS Linux developer community by unveiling controversial changes to the no-cost CentOS operating system, Red Hat has unveiled alternatives for affected users that give them severa Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

China Unveils First 7nm Chip: Big Island

January 22, 2021

Shanghai Tianshu Zhaoxin Semiconductor Co. is claiming China’s first 7-nanometer chip, described as a leading-edge, general-purpose cloud computing chip based on a proprietary GPU architecture. Dubbed “Big Island Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Fire Dynamics Simulation CFD workflow on AWS

Modeling fires is key for many industries, from the design of new buildings, defining evacuation procedures for trains, planes and ships, and even the spread of wildfires. Read more…

HiPEAC Keynote: In-Memory Computing Steps Closer to Practical Reality

January 21, 2021

Pursuit of in-memory computing has long been an active area with recent progress showing promise. Just how in-memory computing works, how close it is to practical application, and what are some of the key opportunities a Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Rolls Out Certified Server Program Targeting AI Applications

January 26, 2021

Nvidia today launched a certified systems program in which participating vendors can offer Nvidia-certified servers with up to eight A100 GPUs. Separate support Read more…

By John Russell

Red Hat’s Disruption of CentOS Unleashes Storm of Dissent

January 22, 2021

Five weeks after angering much of the CentOS Linux developer community by unveiling controversial changes to the no-cost CentOS operating system, Red Hat has un Read more…

By Todd R. Weiss

HiPEAC Keynote: In-Memory Computing Steps Closer to Practical Reality

January 21, 2021

Pursuit of in-memory computing has long been an active area with recent progress showing promise. Just how in-memory computing works, how close it is to practic Read more…

By John Russell

HiPEAC’s Vision for a New Cyber Era, a ‘Continuum of Computing’

January 21, 2021

Earlier this week (Jan. 19), HiPEAC — the European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation — published the 8th edition of the HiPEAC Vision, detailing an increasingly interconnected computing landscape where complex tasks are carried out across multiple... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

President-elect Biden Taps Eric Lander and Deep Team on Science Policy

January 19, 2021

Last Friday U.S. President-elect Joe Biden named The Broad Institute founding director and president Eric Lander as his science advisor and as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lander, 63, is a mathematician by training and distinguished life sciences... Read more…

By John Russell

Pat Gelsinger Returns to Intel as CEO

January 14, 2021

The Intel board of directors has appointed a new CEO. Intel alum Pat Gelsinger is leaving his post as CEO of VMware to rejoin the company that he parted ways with 11 years ago. Gelsinger will succeed Bob Swan, who will remain CEO until Feb. 15. Gelsinger previously spent 30 years... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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…

By John Russell

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…

By John Russell

Esperanto Unveils ML Chip with Nearly 1,100 RISC-V Cores

December 8, 2020

At the RISC-V Summit today, Art Swift, CEO of Esperanto Technologies, announced a new, RISC-V based chip aimed at machine learning and containing nearly 1,100 low-power cores based on the open-source RISC-V architecture. Esperanto Technologies, headquartered in... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Scaled to Record 86,400 Cores for Molecular Dynamics

November 20, 2020

A new record for HPC scaling on the public cloud has been achieved on Microsoft Azure. Led by Dr. Jer-Ming Chia, the cloud provider partnered with the Beckman I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NICS Unleashes ‘Kraken’ Supercomputer

April 4, 2008

A Cray XT4 supercomputer, dubbed Kraken, is scheduled to come online in mid-summer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS). The soon-to-be petascale system, and the resulting NICS organization, are the result of an NSF Track II award of $65 million to the University of Tennessee and its partners to provide next-generation supercomputing for the nation's science community. Read more…

Is the Nvidia A100 GPU Performance Worth a Hardware Upgrade?

October 16, 2020

Over the last decade, accelerators have seen an increasing rate of adoption in high-performance computing (HPC) platforms, and in the June 2020 Top500 list, eig Read more…

By Hartwig Anzt, Ahmad Abdelfattah and Jack Dongarra

Aurora’s Troubles Move Frontier into Pole Exascale Position

October 1, 2020

Intel’s 7nm node delay has raised questions about the status of the Aurora supercomputer that was scheduled to be stood up at Argonne National Laboratory next year. Aurora was in the running to be the United States’ first exascale supercomputer although it was on a contemporaneous timeline with... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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…

By Doug Black

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... Read more…

By Tracey Bryant

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Top500: Fugaku Keeps Crown, Nvidia’s Selene Climbs to #5

November 16, 2020

With the publication of the 56th Top500 list today from SC20's virtual proceedings, Japan's Fugaku supercomputer – now fully deployed – notches another win, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Texas A&M Announces Flagship ‘Grace’ Supercomputer

November 9, 2020

Texas A&M University has announced its next flagship system: Grace. The new supercomputer, named for legendary programming pioneer Grace Hopper, is replacing the Ada system (itself named for mathematician Ada Lovelace) as the primary workhorse for Texas A&M’s High Performance Research Computing (HPRC). Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

At Oak Ridge, ‘End of Life’ Sometimes Isn’t

October 31, 2020

Sometimes, the old dog actually does go live on a farm. HPC systems are often cursed with short lifespans, as they are continually supplanted by the latest and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Gordon Bell Special Prize Goes to Massive SARS-CoV-2 Simulations

November 19, 2020

2020 has proven a harrowing year – but it has produced remarkable heroes. To that end, this year, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) introduced the Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia and EuroHPC Team for Four Supercomputers, Including Massive ‘Leonardo’ System

October 15, 2020

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) serves as Europe’s concerted supercomputing play, currently comprising 32 member states and billions of euros in funding. I Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Xe-HP GPU Deployed for Aurora Exascale Development

November 17, 2020

At SC20, Intel announced that it is making its Xe-HP high performance discrete GPUs available to early access developers. Notably, the new chips have been deplo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia-Arm Deal a Boon for RISC-V?

October 26, 2020

The $40 billion blockbuster acquisition deal that will bring chipmaker Arm into the Nvidia corporate family could provide a boost for the competing RISC-V architecture. As regulators in the U.S., China and the European Union begin scrutinizing the impact of the blockbuster deal on semiconductor industry competition and innovation, the deal has at the very least... Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE, AMD and EuroHPC Partner for Pre-Exascale LUMI Supercomputer

October 21, 2020

Not even a week after Nvidia announced that it would be providing hardware for the first four of the eight planned EuroHPC systems, HPE and AMD are announcing a Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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