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Frequently Asked Questions

Note: The CRPC ceased operations in 2000. These pages are retained for archival purposes.

Please use this FAQ and the CRPC Web pages to answer any questions you may have about the CRPC. If you have additional questions about the CRPC, please contact

What is the CRPC?

The Center for Research on Parallel Computation, or CRPC, is one of the National Science Foundation's 25 Science and Technology Centers. Here the term "center" implies not a single facility, but a nation-wide consortium of more than 400 researchers, support staff, and graduate students.

What is the CRPC's Mailing Address and Phone Number?

To contact CRPC headquarters by mail, write to
Rice University CRPC - MS 41
6100 Main Street Houston, Texas 77005-1892

To contact CRPC headquarters by phone, call (713) 348-5186 or fax us at (713) 348-3111. Mailing addresses and phone numbers for individual CRPC sites are available through their World Wide Web home pages.

Where can I find directions to CRPC Headquarters at Rice University or the Houston Plaza Hilton?

When was the CRPC formed, and what is its main goal?

The CRPC was established in 1989 to make massively parallel computing systems as usable as conventional supercomputing systems are today.

What institutions make up the CRPC?

The CRPC is a consortium that includes seven core sites

and nine affiliated sites

What are some of the CRPC's major accomplishments?

The Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC) has
  • Developed new parallel computing methods that solve important science and engineering problems,
  • Packaged these solutions for easier distribution and use,
  • Fostered standards for programming interfaces across a wide range of parallel computers and computer networks,
  • Developed technologies that U.S. computer companies are now commercializing,
  • Expanded the market for parallel computing,
  • Enabled American businesses to more quickly and accurately test and design new products,
  • Permitted scientists to solve problems that were considered unmanageable by conventional computing, and
  • Encouraged thousands of next-generation students, especially women and underrepresented minorities, to pursue math and science careers.

Where can I find out about related efforts?

The CRPC also has affiliations with other research centers and coalitions:

What is parallel computing?

Parallel computing takes hundreds or thousands of microprocessors (the "brains" behind computers) and makes them work in parallel on a single computing task. These microprocessors can be linked together in a single computer or can be housed separately in computers that are linked together on a network.

What is parallel computing's basic advantage?

The advantage of parallel computing over traditional, single-processor computing is that it can tackle problems faster and with greater power. An analogy would be the advantage of using multiple washing machines at a laundromat over using a single washer at home. With multiple washers, you can handle a larger number of loads in a shorter amount of time.

With the use of these powerful computers, engineers and scientists can design products (such as airplanes, cars, electronic components, and pharmaceuticals) as well as improve methods and services (such as oil reservoir management, toxic waste cleanup, airline scheduling, mutual fund management, video-on-demand) important to society and the economy. Scientists can also probe important problems in chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and physics through detailed computer models.

How will the CRPC help make parallel computing usable?

For the past 30 years, programmers have developed computer software and operating systems that exploit the use of one processor for a task. For parallel computing to work, however, software and operating systems need to be rethought and redeveloped in the context of using multiple processors working together. Standards also need to be developed to ensure that parallel computing users can achieve software performance independent of the machine that they are using. Science and engineering students and current supercomputing users need to be trained in the use of new parallel tools and methods. The CRPC is addressing these areas and others to make parallel computing truly usable at the software level.

What challenges lie in making parallel computing usable?

The next generation of parallel computers will achieve more than three trillion floating-point operations per second (three teraflops). Unfortunately, several factors have hindered users from exploiting this potential:
  • For the past 30 years, programmers have developed computer software and operating systems that exploit the use of one processor for a task. Everything about how a computer is used (software, operating systems, programming languages, and algorithms) needs to be rethought and redeveloped in the context of using multiple processors working together.
  • Standards need to be developed to ensure that software programs can be effectively run independent of the machine running them. This will ensure that businesses using and developing parallel software can retain their software investment while taking advantage of new developments in hardware.
  • Science and engineering students and current supercomputing users need to be trained in the use of new parallel tools and methods. A technology is only as good as the people that use it.
CRPC is effectively addressing these areas and others to make parallel computing truly usable

How can I learn more about parallel computing?

The CRPC has a number of publications that discuss various aspects of parallel computation and the people who work in this field, including There are also a number of publishers who produce books on mathematics, computer science, and parallel computation:

How can I search the CRPC Web site?

You can use our Harvest broker interface to search the CRPC Web Site.

How the CRPC Is Making Parallel Computing Usable

Providing the Key to a $100 Billion Industry

Software and programming support are widely recognized as the final challenges to making high-performance computing and communications (HPCC) an economically successful industry. The CRPC is the only research center in the nation devoted solely to meeting these challenges.

Making Progress Today

CRPC researchers have already developed several influential technologies to make parallel computing truly usable: parallel versions of common programming languages, technologies for making different computers work together, parallel versions of common science and industry applications, and "templates" that enable scientists and engineers with limited programming experience to develop their own customized parallel programs.

Providing Real Benefits to the Computing Industry

Many small to large-size companies have successfully capitalized on CRPC research. Convex Computers, a $200 million/year public corporation reported that "CRPC technology probably represents about one million dollars in research effort to our company." The CRPC has also fostered standards between hardware companies that allow software companies to develop programs regardless of the machine on which they are run. For example, the CRPC led an industry forum to develop High Performance Fortran, a standard parallel language that has spun off product development at more than 20 HPCC companies.

Providing Computing Tools for Many Industries and Scientific Disciplines

The CRPC's work allows American businesses to more accurately and quickly test and design new products, and analyze information for petroleum exploration, environmental clean up, and health care management. For instance, in Texas alone, widespread use of CRPC technologies can potentially improve annual oil production by 300-500 million barrels per year and provide between 60,000-80,000 jobs. CRPC technologies also permit scientists to tackle problems considered unmanageable by conventional computing.

Serving as a Resource Base for the Computing Community

The CRPC is demonstrating how high-performance software can be effectively exchanged, reused, and shared between universities, research laboratories, and industry. The CRPC's National HPCC Software Exchange, an online software distribution system, provides a central Internet access point for HPCC technologies located around the nation. Also, CRPC training courses for supercomputer center staff are leveraging the center's effort to reach the maximum number of supercomputer users.

Providing Support for the Future through Education

The CRPC is training a new generation of scientists and engineers -- particularly women and underrepresented minorities -- to be well-versed in the use of parallel computing. CRPC researchers are providing post-secondary students with valuable research experience, and developing textbooks, curricular materials, and courses, including groundbreaking graduate degree programs in computational science and engineering. CRPC workshops are exposing high school students and teachers around the nation to opportunities in computational science and engineering, and providing curricular support for a model K-8 school.

Additional questions?

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