programming is better developed, many existing programs will need to be rewritten for the new systems.
It is no surprise that progress in learning to take full advantage of the parallel technology has been slow; paradigm shifts are always slow, and this one carries a heavy legacy of past experience and existing programs and tool sets. It is clear, however, that the HPCCI has focused the attention of scientists from many disciplines, application developers, computer experts, engineers, and manufacturers on both the realized and potential benefits of parallel computing. Multidisciplinary teams have developed important parallel applications and will continue to do so. Manufacturers of computers utilizing more traditional architectures are developing new lines to take advantage of parallel computing. Thus, the new ideas developed with HPCCI support are being widely used throughout industry, academia, and government. In fact, it appears that parallel computing is poised for important applications in the storage and analysis of massive databases, as multimedia servers and delivery systems, and as powerful on-line transactions systems.
While the preceding structural and technical information provides the larger context in which the HPCCI should be understood and evaluated, several current but narrower issues affecting the initiative also require comment.
Recent studies of the HPCCI, one by the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the other by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), have been regarded by some as being critical of the entire initiative. The committee received detailed briefings on these two studies and believes that it is important to offer another perspective on their focus and context.
The report by the GAO6 did not attempt to evaluate the entire initiative, but focused instead on the research funding, the computer prototype acquisition activities, and the balance between hardware and software investments by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). It recommended that ARPA (1) broaden its computer placement program by including a wider range of computer types, (2) establish and maintain a public database covering the agency HPCCI program and the performance characteristics of the machines it funds, and (3) emphasize and provide increased support for high-performance software. The report’s authors stated to the committee that while recommending improvements, they had found that ARPA had administered its program properly.
Likewise, rather than attempting an overall evaluation of the initiative, the CBO report focused on the HPCCI’s role in promoting a new parallel-computer industry in the United States.7 It concluded that the private market demand for some HPCCI-developed technologies might be very limited and thus, that the potential for revenue generation by such an industry might be limited. It did not consider either the economic impact of the application of high-performance computing and communications by other sectors of the U.S. economy, or the potential cost of relinquishing national leadership in high-performance computing and communications. In keeping with CBO policy, it offered no recommendations.