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

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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.