San Diego, Calif. -- HPCwire recently noted the appointment of Ken Kennedy,
director of the NSF-funded Center for Research on Parallel Computation
(CRPC), headquartered at Rice University, as co-chair of the new HPCC
Advisory Committee (see article 10745, "PRES. CLINTON NAMES CO-CHAIR, MEMBERS
OF HPCC COMMITTEE", 02.14.97). To learn more about the Committee's tasks and
direction, HPCwire interviewed Kennedy. Following are selected excerpts from
HPCwire: What priorities do you foresee the HPCC Advisory Committee will
KENNEDY: "I believe the Federal Government will want us to spend a
substantive amount of time thinking about the Next Generation Internet. It's
high on their priority list, because they've budgeted around a hundred
million dollars to start that effort. Presumably there will be additional
funding for it in future years, assuming the original money is invested
wisely. I'm sure Anita Jones, who chairs the Coordinating Committee for
Communication, Computation, and Information Technology, also sees this as a
high priority. And I also believe it requires immediate attention.
"One has to understand both the technical and investment strategy
necessary to take such an investment and derive a real infrastructure from
it. Much thought must be given to how to connect those places that can
develop the applications enabled by the dramatically increased bandwidth of
the Next Generation Internet. The current Internet succeeded because it
connected the innovators, the government and research labs where
experimentation was done and new applications developed.
"I believe similar applications can be supported on a much higher bandwidth
Internet, but I believe there will also be important new applications
developed. So we want to make sure that the policies undertaken as a result
of our advice would encourage the development of next-generation "killer"
apps for networking.
"There are technical issues as well regarding how the Federal Government
should spend the limited amount of money that it has available for this
project to connect all the relevant players: school districts and companies
as well as research labs. There's a question of who should bear the cost and
how it might be spread out over all the participants. However, we're not
going to get too deeply involved in issues of regulatory policy."
HPCwire: Do you feel formation of the Advisory Committee heralds more
governmental sensitivity to requirements for significant progress in HPC?
KENNEDY: "I have high hopes. I personally would like to make sure that,
while appropriate attention is paid to networking and information technology,
high-end computing is not forgotten in the rush. HPC is important for the
country...Applications enabled at the high-end are vital for our quality of
life. They make cars and airplanes safer, produce more effective medicines,
and improve the general level of knowledge in our society. In my view, it
would pay to get a five-year jump on addressing some of these critical
"Funding for HPC has shifted and shrunk somewhat, although I believe there
are still plenty of resources out there. For example, there are programs like
ASCI -- because they need high performance computing; they need extensive
numerical simulation. Programs like that -- and others will arise -- will
look to high-end computing as very viable and important. But there is a
squeeze on Federal funding for all programs, and computation is not exempted
from this. Money is tight; many computer scientists have trouble getting
grants, and I think that will continue. I do hope, though, that the
Committee's recommendations -- considering its diverse membership -- will
favor insuring that there is at least a maintenance and enhancement in these
HPCwire: What role, if any, will the Committee play in the PACI competition
and the reshaping of this country's HPC infrastructure?
KENNEDY: "We will not be involved in the selection of winners in programs
like PACI or even in design of specific new programs. The Committee would be
more likely to advise as to what kinds of competetively bid programs would
make sense. This will be done on a fairly broad and abstract level. The
Federal agencies' program managers are charged with the responsibilities of
designing funding programs to carry out those agencies' goals. It is not our
job to design Federal funding programs. But it is our job to advise on what
kinds of programs make sense in order to move the technology forward, to make
sure the research, corporate, and other communities we serve have the right
technologies at the right time -- and hopefully ahead of the rest of the
world, so we would continue to have the economic advantage. We will talk
about what makes sense for the infrastructure of the country -- for example,
the Next Generation Internet."
HPCwire: What kind of HPC technologies and infrastructure will make sense
for us in the coming century?
KENNEDY: "One important issue that will be raised in this connection is
whether we should continue to invest in development of computer architectures
to advance to the petaflops level...What kinds of software challenges will be
involved? Will the current workstation- or PC-based- scalable computing
technologies be able to scale to a petaflops by 2007? There are some people
who doubt it. This might well be an issue for a task force spun out of this
HPCwire: How closely will the Committee examine security issues?
KENNEDY: "Security is an incredibly important issue and will grow in
importance as the information infrastructure grows, especially in the
commercial arena. Take the "Boeing product design problem", for example.
Boeing designs airplanes not just in-house but with the help of hundreds of
subcontractors, and they try to build these planes with paperless designs
inside computers. But if you want a geographically dispersed team to explore
such designs, you must have recourse to some kind of network. Currently,
Boeing restricts their work to an internal network because of security
concerns. However, if they found security strong enough, they might be
willing to do this work on a global information infrastructure. The
designers, located all over the world, might then use virtual-reality
modeling to share and explore designs.
"Reliability will be as important as security. For example, if you're
downloading extremely high-resolution video, and one link goes down, the
performance of the entire network might be degraded. The whole area of high-
content computing necessarily involves both reliability and security. That is
another aspect of the current Federal program that we'll probably look at."
HPCwire: Will your Committee address issues involving export of encryption
KENNEDY: "We will stay away from regulatory issues involved with commerce.
The policy of encryption export will be one that we will almost certainly
duck. If you look at the composition of the Committee, I believe there's not
a single lawyer on it. And legal issues are involved in that question. Now,
if you polled the members, I would guess most are in favor of relaxing
restrictions on export of encryption technologies. However, we will stick to
longer-range views and try to help the Federal government assess what kinds
of investments should be made over the next four or five years to insure
continued technological leadership."
Alan Beck is editor in chief of HPCwire. Comments are always welcome and
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