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If They Build It, Who Will Run It?

A long-time business colleague of mine, who we’ll call Martin for the sake of this article, called me recently to say he was packing up his family and moving to Europe. He had just accepted a position in exascale software development and agreed to a minimum two-year stay in Europe with his new company. The dynamics behind this move — and the questions it raises for the bigger picture of exascale development resources — forms the theme for this article.

There is a growing sentiment in the U.S. that we are losing ground in technology leadership and a national exascale initiative is called for. While we’ve seen some signs of commitment and funding, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s early funding for the International Exascale Software Project, and more recently, the “Exascale Co-Design Center” solicitation, there is clearly no multi-agency collaboration at the level of what we are seeing in Europe. It does seem that the lack of a national initiative with well coordinated, collaborative organizations and significant and steady funding is placing the U.S. at a disadvantage. In fact, according to my friend Martin, “I became aware of seven exascale positions over the past month, and six of them were in Europe.”

What’s going on here: is HPC leadership quietly slipping out of the United States?

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