Next Generation Internet Agenda Dominates Clinton's HPCC Advisory Council Meeting
Source: HPCC Week, March 6, 1997
The U.S. government's role in developing the Next Generation Internet (NGI)
dominated discussions at the first meeting of President Clinton's Advisory
Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information
Technology, and the Next Generation Internet. But by the end of the
two-day meeting, held Feb. 27-78, two other issues were granted
subcommittee status; high-end computing and computations; and large-scale
applications, such as information management, healthcare and
"At one point I was worried that we might not converge," Kenneth Kennedy
told HPCC Week, as the committee had so much to consider in so little time.
"But we got done what we had to get done, which was to get some
organizational issues closed. From that perspective I think it was pretty
successful. Obviously, the real work is ahead."
The real work ahead in the short term centers around publishing a report on
the NGI for the administration in time to affect the FY 1998 budget
negotiation process. "We want to make sure there are no mistakes [in the
administration's NGI plan]," Kennedy said. President Clinton's budget
includes $100 million for the NGI initiative spread across several
agencies. The advisory committee's 10-member subcommittee will immediately
begin drafting the report, which the full committee will review when it
meets again in June. Then the NGI subcommittee will prepare a more
detailed assessment of the administration's NGI strategy in order to affect
the FY 1999 NGI budget allocation.
A good portion of the first day the committee met was spent discussing how
the body should proceed with its job. Anita Jones, DOD's director of
Defense Research and engineering, told its members to first assess current
federal investment, future plans, and progress in high-end information
technologies. Then, in issuing its advice, Jones told the group, the
committee should pick a few topics that matter to the president and his
science advisers, and that emphasize what matters most to the future of the
"Decide where you can help government the best, and where the government
will listen," Jones said. "The Next Generation Internet is absolutely
That the Next Generation Internet dominated the debate was somewhat
unsettling to at least one federal HPCC leader who was present at the
meeting. ""Don't be hypnotized by the Next Generation Internet," said Juris
Hartmanis, head of the National Science Foundation's Directorate for
Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "[The committee should]
formulate for bigger problems than the Next Generation Internet."
After the meeting, Dick Glassbrook, federal program manager for the
Research Consortium RCI ltd., said the three chosen subcommittees were good
choices, but "you can't separate these three issues. They must be viewed
as a total package," Glassbrook said.
In terms of how to approach its work, Kennedy said the group will follow
the suggestion of Cray Research President Bo Ewald, who urged the committee
to brainstorm a vision of how HPCC applications would impact life in the
year 2007, and then work backward in examining what technological
innovations will be necessary to achieve that vision.
Larry Smarr, director of the National Center for Supercomputer
Applications, backed Ewald's idea during the meeting. "We should look at
our existing digital fabric and decide what has to be done to break the
bottlenecks in the next five to 10 years," Smarr said.
During the meeting, each member was given three minutes to air views on
what most demanded the committee's attention. Co-chair Bill Joy of Sun
Microsystems and Steve Wallach of Hewlett-Packard agreed that the
government needs to spend more on HPCC. "A billion dollars a year doesn't
seem like much to an information economy of this size" Wallach said. Joy
added that, when inflation is taken into account, the government is
actually spending less today than in recent years.
Kennedy said he had not met with Vice President Al Gore prior to the
advisory committee meeting. However, after the meeting he and Joy met with
Gore for "about 25 minutes' in the Old Executive Office Building.
"First, he said how important this [advisory committee] activity was, and
how interested he was in it, and how supportive [he was of it]. Then both
Bill Joy and myself made brief comments about the various things we felt
were important and interesting, reaffirming our support and the committee's
support for Next Generation Internet activity."
Kennedy said the two men then suggested to Gore that he join them for "a
deeper and more substantive" discussion of the technical issues facing the
government's HPCC program, to which he seemed amenable. Then, Kennedy
said, Gore displayed some technical knowledge of his own, as he has long
been prone to do.
He was interested in what we thought of quantum computing," Kennedy said.
"Obviously, he's not a technical person, but he is quite conversant with
the ideas and the issues. I think it's a great asset [for the HPCC
program] to have a vice president with such technical knowledge."