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FEATURE by Ken Kennedy, Director, CRPC HPCwire

The High Performance Computing and Communications Program is in transition, a transition that reflects new directions in the nation's priorities. With the end of the cold war, we no longer need vast expenditures on the weapons of war and we can refocus our resources on other important problems of society.

These changes have led to a major change in the way funding for science is viewed. After World War II, the United States dramatically increased the funding for science and technology because it was believed to be essential for our nation's security. Now, however, that security is less in doubt, and the preeminence in science is simply not as appealing to the average American as it was in the context of defense. A recent critique of the HPCC program by the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP), an organization of chief executive officers of the larger computer companies, pointed out that the person on the street would see little personal benefit from the solution of the "Grand Challenge" problems. Whether this criticism is right or wrong makes no difference -- it accurately reflects the perceptions of the White House and the Congress. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that priorities for the HPCC program are being changed.

What is the nature of those changes? First, emphasis in applications is being gradually shifted away from the Grand Challenges toward "National Challenges," especially the three identified by the CSPP: health care, manu- facturing and education. These emphases reflect the new focus on solving the problems of society after the cold war. Of course, scientific applications of the sort used in the Grand Challenge efforts will play a major role in National Challenges as well. However, National Challenges go far beyond these applications requiring the integration of communication and information in new ways. A simple example is telemedicine in which it is envisioned that physicians in remote locations will be able to tap the intellectual, computational and information resources of a major medical center through high-speed communications links.

A second major change is the increased emphasis on the "National Information Infrastructure" (NII) or the "information superhighway" as it is known in the press. This increased emphasis is in part due to the enthusiasm of Vice President Al Gore and his staff and in part due to the frenzy of businesses positioning themselves, through mergers and technology development, to make big money on the information revolution. Although I do not see providing movies on demand as a quest worthy of the status of "national goal," it is clear that the NII will have many powerful applications in health care, manufacturing and education. However, much remains to be done. Like parallel computing, the information superhighway is mostly promise with few significant successes to date.

Realizing this, the funding agencies of the federal government are emphasizing research and development projects in the category of "information infrastructure technology assessment" and nearly all the new research funds of some agencies are in this category. The Center for Research on Parallel Computation is undertaking a number of programs to become better integrated with the NII. First, we are establishing a Mosaic home page that will allow the Internet browser to rapidly find all the on- line information resources of the center, which will include our brochure, this newsletter, all of our freely-distributed software, and most of our technical reports. An increasing number of the documents we will keep on- line will take advantage of the multimedia capabilities of Mosaic and other World Wide Web browsers.

Finally, we have proposed to a multiple-agency council a project to establish a National Software Exchange for the HPCC program that would serve as a clearinghouse for software artifacts of HPCC research.

As we prepare for our second major review over the coming year, we must all be thinking of how these trends should affect the goals and strategy of the Center for Research on Parallel Computation and the HPCC program at large so that we can more effectively serve the HPCC community and the nation.

This article appears courtesy of the Center for Research on Parallel Computation, Rice University.

H P C W I R E S P O N S O R S Product specifications and company information in this section are available to both subscribers and non-subscribers.

901) ANS 902) IBM Corp. 904) Intel SSD 905) Maximum Strategy 906) nCUBE 907) Digital Equipment 909) Fujitsu America 912) Avalon Computer 914) Applied Parallel Res. 915) Genias Software 916) MasPar Computer 919) Transtech Parallel 921) Cray Research Inc. 927) ISR Corp.

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