NSF awards Texas Advanced Computing Center $59 million for high-performance computing

September 29, 2006

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a five-year, $59 million award to the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas (UT) at Austin and its partners at Arizona State University and Cornell University to acquire, operate and support a high-performance computing system that will provide unprecedented computational power to the nation's scientists and engineers.

TACC is partnering with Sun Microsystems to deploy a supercomputer system specifically developed to support very large science and engineering computing requirements. In its final configuration in 2007, the supercomputer will have a peak performance in excess of 420 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops), making it one of the most powerful supercomputer systems in the world. It will also provide over 100 trillion bytes (terabytes) of memory and 1.7 quadrillion bytes (petabytes) of disk storage. The system is based on Sun Fire(TM) x64 (x86, 64-bit) servers and Sun StorageTek(TM) disk and tape storage technologies, and will use AMD's forthcoming quad-core processors.

The University of Texas at Austin project team is led by TACC director Jay Boisseau and includes researchers from TACC and UT's Institute for Computational Engineering & Sciences.

High-performance computing (HPC) has become a vital investigative tool in many science and engineering disciplines. It enables testing and validation of theories and analysis of vast volumes of experimental data generated by modern scientific instruments, such as the very high-energy particle accelerators in the United States and Europe. HPC makes it possible for researchers to conduct experiments that would otherwise be impossible--studying the dynamics of the Earth's climate in the distant past, for example, investigating how the universe developed, or discovering how complex biological molecules mediate life processes. In industry, high-performance computing is used in everything from aircraft design and improvement of automobile crash-worthiness, to the creation of breath-taking animations in the cinema and production of snack food.

Increasingly, high-performance computing is becoming an engine for American competitiveness as President Bush emphasized in his 2006 State of the Union address, and as noted in reports from both the National Academy of Sciences and the Council on Competitiveness. High-performance computing is one of the components of the American Competitiveness Initiative.

HPC systems are enabling researchers to address important problems in nearly all fields of science. From understanding the 3-D structure and function of proteins to predicting severe weather events, HPC resources have become indispensable to knowledge discovery in life sciences, geosciences, social sciences and engineering, producing results that have direct bearing on society and quality of life. HPC resources are required for basic research across disciplines, from understanding the synthesis of all heavy elements via supernova explosions to mapping the evolutionary history of all organisms throughout the history of life on Earth.

"This Sun system will enable scientific codes to achieve greater performance on vastly larger problems, with higher resolution and accuracy, than ever before. It will be one of the most important scientific instruments in the world," said TACC's Boisseau.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 1,700 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes nearly 10,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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