The HPCCI builds on several decades of research, development, and technology transfer in computer science and engineering that have been marked by an effective partnership among industry, academia, and government. There is a substantial record of government-funded university research stimulating the development of new products and companies through the transfer of both technologies and trained people. Continued government investment in the core technologies of computer science and engineering will in all likelihood continue to yield major positive benefits to the nation’s economy.
The HPCCI is contributing to a paradigm shift in high-performance computing from scalar and vector computing to a three-way mix that gives full weight to highly parallel computing. Parallel computing is becoming an established technology, and a variety of parallel architectures are proving to be useful for different computational tasks. Depending on a firm’s or agency’s mission, parallel computers can often be procured in the same manner as any established technology. However, a shortage of third-party-developed application software currently constrains the benefits being realized from parallel computing.
While the committee cannot predict the precise future path of parallel architecture development, the overall importance of parallel computing is now widely recognized. Efforts under the HPCCI to foster its use are beginning to bear valuable intellectual fruit. In whatever direction the interplay of economics, technology, and software drives the revolution in parallel computing, the intellectual output attributable to the HPCCI can continue to provide the knowledge and personnel base to make parallel machines increasingly useful.
The development of software for highly parallel computers trails the evolution of the hardware. Thus, operating systems for parallel computers are immature, as are high-level language compilers. Few third-party commercial developers of major applications have as yet reworked their offerings to exploit highly parallel computing. Computer scientists and computational scientists in the user-disciplines do not yet know how to convert many applications to parallel computing. Discovery and development of new algorithms, as well as programming, will be crucial to obtaining maximum benefit from the paradigm shift to parallel computing. The committee will include a more detailed examination of algorithms and programming in its final report.
Impressive progress has been made in developing switches and transmission technology for high-speed networking. The speed of digital communications is rising rapidly, helped in part by high-speed network testbeds funded through the HPCCI.9