The Innovation Journal has posted a transcript of an unprecedented round table discussion about HPC between four national lab directors. The participants were Paul Hommer (Sandia), Charles McMillan (Los Alamos National Laboratory), William Goldstein (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), Thom Mason (Oak Ridge National Laboratory); and Robert Meisner (DOE ASC Advanced Strategic Computing Office). The moderator was Allan Hauer, former chief scientist, Stockpile Stewardship Office, National Nuclear Security Administration, and science advisor to Innovation.
One aspect of high performance computing is the breadth of applications. In the context of national security you have the example of the nuclear weapons program and also the impact of large scale computing and data analytics in support of the intelligence community. There are other dimensions of this national asset as well, since the pursuit of tough problems has often driven the technology into fields where there is a commercial and industrial activity in the U.S. Although less dominant than it was, in the HPC technology space we retain a very strong position. That’s partly because we have had governmental drivers through a national security point of view. That has allowed industry to prosper and be at the cutting edge of technology that they can then bring to other markets. There are also indirect contributions to national problems from the technology that has been applied in industry. A final asset is the physics models developed for the weapons program. For example, modeling of advanced materials combined with deep understanding of the underlying microscopic science is increasingly valuable. This can be of tremendous economic importance in reducing the design cycle in manufacturing and thus bringing new materials into deployment.
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