DARPA announces Omnipresent High Performance Computing program

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On June 21 DARPA, the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced the latest in its recent spate of high-end computing efforts, the Omnipresent High Performance Computing (OHPC) program. This effort will award investigators up to a maximum of $3M over three years to build hardware that will be needed by the systems activities undertaken as part of DARPA’s Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) program. And like the UHPC program, OHPC is being managed out of Bill Harrod’s Transformation Convergence Technology Office at DARPA.

Harrod is swinging for the fences again this time: according to the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), “Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.”

The goal of this program is to accelerate the UHPC program (which has a deadline to field prototype systems by 2018) by conducting research and development on technologies that are critical to that program, either in whole or in part. UHPC is structured around a set of goals that will motivate the technologies developed through OHPC

  • Single cabinet system that achieves the UHPC program vision and goals (various, including 1 PFLOPS in a single 57 kW rack)
  • Self-aware OS and the resulting new system software stack.
  • Dynamic system that adapts to achieve optimal application execution goals, without the direct involvement of the application developer.
  • UHPC System Design that supports modern high performance for scientific and engineering applications.
  • UHPC System Design based on a multi-level model of dependability.
  • Processor module that is capable of being used within terascale embedded and multiple cabinet systems.

Interestingly, the UHPC BAA explicitly states that there is no need for researchers to be constrained by what is currently economically viable or that there ever be a path to commercial viability. This is in stark contrast to activities in that other DoD HPC effort, the High Performance Computing Modernization Program, which restricts itself exclusively to technologies that are commercially available.

Specific topics of interest called out for the OHPC program include power management, hardware and software for highly programmable systems, system dependability, scalable I/O, programming models, and low power circuits.

Awards will cover a single phase of three years and include funding of up to $1M a year. Initial responses are required by 06 August, 2010, with the final closing on 22 December of this year.