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Interview: Pete Beckman on Why the US Needs an Ambitious Exascale Plan

Computer World brings us this interview with Pete Beckman, who became head of the DOE’s new Exascale Institute.

Think of it as a time machine. What happens in high-performance computing then happens in high-performance technical servers, and finally your laptop. We’re looking at that big change and saying what we need is a real organized effort on the hardware, software and applications to tackle this. It can’t just be one of those. In the past, the vendors have designed a new system and then in some sense it comes out, and users look at it and ask: “How do I port my code to this?” or “What we’re looking at is improving that model to ‘co-design'” — a notion that comes from the embedded computing space, where the users of the system, the hardware architects and the software people, all get together and make trade-offs with what the best optimized supercomputer will look like to answer science questions.

At insideHPC, we strongly believe that the United States needs a national Exascale initiative put in place as soon as possible. The task is on a scale of difficulty equivalent to what it took to put a man on the moon in the sixties. Can we do it in this decade? Maybe, but the Chinese, the Europeans, and a host of other geographies are investing heavily in Exascale. They are committed, organized, and moving forward. If we as a nation don’t get on the stick, we’ll be watching from the sidelines wondering how we ever brought those astronauts safely back.

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