THE NEW GLOBAL ECOSYSTEM IN
Implications for U.S. Competitiveness and National Security
Committee on Global Approaches to Advanced Computing
Board on Global Science and Technology
Policy and Global Affairs Division
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Contract No. HHM402-10-D-0036 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Defense. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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COMMITTEE ON GLOBAL APPROACHES TO ADVANCED COMPUTING
DANIEL A. REED, Chair, University of Iowa
CONG CAO, University of Nottingham
TAI MING CHEUNG, University of California, San Diego
JOHN CRAWFORD, Intel Corporation
DIETER ERNST, East-West Center
MARK D. HILL, University of Wisconsin–Madison
STEPHEN W. KECKLER, NVIDIA (on sabbatical from the University of Texas at Austin)
DAVID LIDDLE, U.S. Venture Partners
KATHRYN S. MCKINLEY, Microsoft Corporation (on sabbatical from the University of Texas at Austin)
PRINCIPAL PROJECT STAFF
WILLIAM O. BERRY, Study Director, Board on Global Science and Technology
ETHAN N. CHIANG, Program Officer, Board on Global Science and Technology
LYNETTE I. MILLETT, Associate Director, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
BOARD ON GLOBAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
RUTH DAVID, Chair, Analytic Services, Inc.
HAMIDEH AFSARMANESH, University of Amsterdam
KATY BÖRNER, Indiana University Bloomington
JEFFREY BRADSHAW, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
DIANNE CHONG, The Boeing Company
JARED COHON, Carnegie Mellon University
ERIC HASELTINE, Haseltine Partners, LLC
JOHN HENNESSY, Stanford University
NAN JOKERST, Duke University
PETER KOLCHINSKY, RA Capital Management, LLC
CHEN-CHING LIU, Washington State University
KIN MUN LYE, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research
BERNARD MEYERSON, IBM Corporation
KENNETH OYE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NEELA PATEL, Abbott Laboratories
DANIEL REED, University of Iowa
DAVID REJESKI, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
WILLIAM O. BERRY, Director
PATRICIA WRIGHTSON, Associate Director
ETHAN N. CHIANG, Program Officer
NEERAJ GORKHALY, Research Associate
PETER HUNSBERGER, Financial Officer
The information revolution of the last half-century has been driven by dramatic improvements in computing technology—in particular by year-over-year exponential growth in single-processor computing performance that translated into phenomenal new technologies and indeed served as the foundation for entire new industries. Improvements in hardware and associated software advances sustained this growth for decades. In the last few years, those single-processor performance gains have slowed dramatically due to fundamental physical and technical constraints related to power dissipation.1 Moreover, there is substantial uncertainty as to which technological breakthroughs, if any, may make it possible to continue this approach. This technology disruption has implications not just for the information technology (IT) industry and sectors that depend on it, but for U.S. competitiveness and national security.
The United States has traditionally been on the leading edge of research related to general-purpose computing performance, demonstrated in part by its dominant position in commodity microprocessors for personal computers and servers. The United States has also long been the leader in high-performance computing (HPC) systems, both in research and in deployment. Finally, the United States has also been a leader in the development of graphics processing units (GPUs) and other specialized processors.2 However, the shift to mobilebased devices and the globalization of the international economy, of communications, and of science and technology (S&T) threatens to erode U.S. technological leadership in these critical areas.
The emergence of global competitors to the United States in advanced computing underscores the need for U.S. policymakers to both understand the advancement of global S&T related to advanced computing and to integrate this understanding with programmatic S&T decision making. To understand these issues more fully, the Office of the Assistant
1National Research Council, 2011, The Future of Computing Performance: Game Over or Next Level?, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press (available online at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12980). “Before 2004, processor performance was growing by a factor of about 100 per decade; since 2004, processor performance has been growing and is forecasted to grow by a factor of only about 2 per decade. An expectation gap is apparent.”
2Although both HPC systems and specialized processors are key elements of U.S. competitiveness and national security, the committee’s guidance from the sponsor was to focus on the broader computing environment, not on high-end computing. The enabling technologies for these HPC systems are based on the same single-processor, multicore and GPU technologies that are the basis for consumer commodity computing.
Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering at the Department of Defense asked the National Research Council (NRC) to assess the global S&T landscape for responding to the challenge of improving computing performance in an era where parallel rather than sequential computing is at the forefront.
The Committee on Global Approaches to Advanced Computing was appointed under the auspices of the NRC’s Board on Global Science and Technology to conduct this exploration. The nine members of the study committee represent academia and private industry and have expertise in computer science, international S&T, technology assessment, and global innovation. Biographical information for members of the committee is presented in Appendix A. Box P-1 contains committee’s statement of task. The committee held three meetings during the course of its work (August, September, and October 2011).
To meet its charge, the committee took a two-part approach. First, it investigated worldwide global research capabilities and commercial competitiveness related to advanced computing,3 beginning with technology context setting and definitions. As an additional data-gathering experiment, the committee solicited insights from approximately one dozen leading computer scientists and engineers to help identify potential “hubs” of science and technology, relevant to the computing performance challenge (see Appendix B). The committee then examined different innovation strategies, policy tools, and institutional arrangements in a variety of countries that are potentially important players in the development of computing devices technologies and products. Finally, the committee explored the implications of changes in the global advanced computing landscape for U.S. national security.
The data analyses presented in this report are intended to be a starting point for further exploration. The committee’s observations highlight important global trends with regard to computing and potential implications for U.S. leadership and for U.S. defense and national security. Rather than providing formal recommendations, this report offers an assessment of the landscape based on the observations and insights of the study committee.
I would like to thank the members of the study committee for their efforts and contributions in developing this report. I also thank the briefers who came and spoke to the committee and provided crucial input and insights that helped to guide our thinking. (Briefers to the committee are listed in Appendix C.) I also thank the reviewers (see Acknowledgment of Reviewers).
Lastly, the support of the NRC staff was indispensible to accomplishing this study. Special thanks go to Ethan Chiang, who worked closely with the committee throughout the study and played a major role in the preparation of this report. Thanks also go to Lynette Millett for her many valuable insights and contributions.
Chair, Committee on Global Approaches to Advanced Computing
3By “advanced computing” the committee means any innovations in semiconductor technologies (including fabrication, processing and manufacturing); computer architectures, computing hardware, algorithms and programming approaches; and software developments that improve computing performance or provide new or improved functionality.
Statement of Task
An ad hoc committee of the Board on Global Science and Technology (BGST) will describe and assess the global S&T landscape for responding to the challenges of sustaining historical trends in computing performance improvement in general and to the challenge presented by the shift to multicore processors in particular. The committee will identify cutting-edge approaches in computer hardware (e.g., multicore architectures) and software (e.g., emerging parallel programming models) technologies to meet this challenge. The committee will also identify hot spots of innovation around the world and project areas of technological leadership in the United States and elsewhere. Lastly, the committee will consider the implications of these global advances for the U.S. S&T enterprise and for U.S. national security. Based on their work, the committee may suggest criteria or methodologies to more effectively assess the global state of play in a variety of emergent areas of S&T.
To accomplish this task, the committee should consider, but is not limited to, the following questions:
- What is the cutting edge of approaches for responding to the computing performance challenge?
- How do other nations and institutions view the computing performance challenge, and what strategies do they have for responding to it?
- Where are the innovation hot spots in efforts to advance computing performance in the United States and overseas?
- How are efforts to improve computing performance likely to advance (or stall) over time? Can such efforts be regionally identified? If so, what are they?
- What are U.S. strengths relative to other international technology leaders in advanced computing performance currently and how might those strengths be expected to change over time?
- What are the implications of these global advances for U.S. national security in the near and far terms? What are potential resulting IT capabilities and what implications do these have for U.S. national security in the near and far terms?
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Eric Archambault, Science-Metrix Inc.;
Mark Bohr, Intel Corporation;
Katy Börner, Indiana University;
Keith Cooper, Rice University;
Peter Cowhey, University of California, San Diego;
Robert Doering, Texas Instruments Incorporated;
Daniel Edelstein, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center;
David Kirk, NVIDIA Corporation;
James Larus, Microsoft Research;
David Messerschmitt, University of California, Berkeley;
Henk Moed, Elsevier; and
James Valdes, United States Department of the Army.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Anita Jones, University of Virginia and Samuel Fuller, Analog Devices, Inc. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.