Supercomputers ramp up to tackle global societal problems


Richard Moore

Bcc: FYI
Supercomputers of the future, capable of rapidly crunching vast amounts of data way beyond the existing capabilities of current technology, will spearhead the development of new drugs, new sources of energy and environmental monitoring.

How nice, super computers to run the world, just like the Venus Project talks about, or The Matrix film, where AI has conquered humanity.
The problem isn’t that our computers aren’t good enough, rather it’s the demons running the world who always decide what the programming will be.

Supercomputers ramp up to tackle global societal problems

Supercomputers of the future, capable of rapidly crunching vast amounts of data way beyond the existing capabilities of current technology, will spearhead the development of new drugs, new sources of energy and environmental monitoring.

The computational science expertise at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory is set to play a key role in the development of the critical numerical applications software, required by this next generation of supercomputer, as part of a worldwide initiative announced by Fujitsu Ltd and Fujitsu Laboratories Europe Ltd.

Fujitsu’s Open Petascale Libraries project (OPL) is a global collaborative initiative created to develop a publically available mathematical library that will facilitate the development of the software required to run on next-generation petascale supercomputers, capable of performing quadrillions of calculations per second.

Working with some of Fujitsu’s high-performance computing kit based at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, Daresbury’s computational scientists will be using their combined specialist skills in parallel algorithms and high performance computing to aid the delivery of a unique numerical toolkit to advance scientific computational simulation using the next generation of supercomputers.

Petascale computers are capable of quickly performing large-scale and advanced computations that cannot be solved using normal computers. As such, they are vital tools for solving the important issues facing society, including improved healthcare, the development of new medicines, materials, strategies for environmental disaster prevention as well as for basic scientific research including the origin of matter and the history of the universe.

However, in order to maximise the performance of petascale computers it is necessary to develop applications and software that can cope with millions of simultaneous computations and seamlessly perform these on parallel computers.

Dr Mike Ashworth, Associate Director at STFC’s Computational Science and Engineering Department, said: “We will be working very closely with the other collaborators in the project, particularly with Imperial College London and the Numerical Algorithms Group Ltd in Oxford, to help create this mathematical library that so many application developers are waiting for. This requires far deeper knowledge of computer architecture and applications than is the case for today’s supercomputers and, as the code will be made publically available, it will provide a significant contribution to the computational science community as a whole.”

The output of the project will also be applied to help accelerate the application development for Japan’s Next Generation ‘K computer’, scheduled to begin operations in 2012, capable of performing 10 petaflops, or 10 quadrillion calculations, per second.

Fujitsu’s OPL project is being established by twelve initial participating organisations, which in addition to Fujitsu, include universities and research institutions from Europe, the USA, Asia and Oceania, such as Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), the Society of Scientific Systems and the National Institute of Informatics; the Australian National University; the Innovative Computing Laboratory at The University of Tennessee; the Institute of High Performance Computing at Singapore’s A*STAR; and in the UK Oxford University e-Research Centre, Imperial College London, the Numerical Algorithms Group Ltd, University College London and STFC.

The launch of the OPL project was scheduled to coincide with SC10, a conference bringing together supercomputer professionals from around the world, with the project’s inaugural workshop held on 14th November in New Orleans, Louisianna, USA.


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