PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois
Vol. 27, No. 15, March 6, 2008
Institute launches inaugural projects
Three diverse efforts will be the inaugural projects of the new Institute for Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies at the UI. The institute transfers advances from the computer science and engineering research at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to the larger scientific, engineering, and arts, humanities and social science communities in order to speed progress across all of these frontiers.
“These projects will bring the development and deployment competencies of NCSA to bear on challenges in diverse disciplines and will forge unique collaborations between Illinois faculty and NCSA staff,” said institute and NCSA director Thom Dunning. “It’s very exciting to be able to foster such innovative work.”
The institute is organized around five broad themes: Advanced Information Systems, Computing and Creativity, Data-intensive Applications and Technologies, Simulation of Natural and Engineered Systems, and the Center for Petascale Computing. Two of the initial projects are under the Simulation of Natural and Engineered Systems, while the third falls under Computing and Creativity.
The three projects launched in January:
Synergistic Research on Parallel Programming for Petascale Applications, led by Duane Johnson, materials science and engineering, and Laxmikant Kale, computer science. Effectively harnessing the power of supercomputers – like the sustained-petascale Blue Waters system scheduled to come online at the UI in 2011 – will require the coordinated development of petascale parallel programming tools and petascale applications. This project will combine potentially petascale applications- including codes for astrophysical (FLASH) and biomolecular (NAMD) simulation and for determining the electronic-structure of materials (QMCpack and MECCA)- with needed computer science research. Efforts will focus on adaptive runtime systems that automate dynamic load balancing and fault tolerance, enhancement of parallel programming abstractions, best-practice software engineering to petascale applications via refactoring tools, productive programming environments that integrate performance analysis and debugging tools, and automatically tuned libraries.
“Our major goal,” Johnson said, “is to focus on applications having impact on challenging physical problems of broad community interest and that could really show sustained petascale performance given the right computer science tools and libraries on the planned hardware. Concerted effort between the physical and computer scientists is critical for this to happen – not all square blocks fit into the same round hole. The outcome is solutions to problems that, up until now, were impossible.”
Next-Generation Acceleration Systems for Advanced Science and Engineering Applications, led by Wen-mei Hwu, electrical and computer engineering/Coordinated Science Laboratory. This project will develop application algorithms, programming tools, and software artifacts for seamless deployment of next-generation accelerators – including graphics processing units (GPUs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) – in science and engineering applications. The mission is to empower science and engineering researchers by enabling their applications to run 100 times faster and at much lower cost than traditional parallel processing techniques. Researchers will work on new algorithms and programming styles for taking full advantage of acceleration technologies in molecular dynamics and quantum chemistry (collaborating with Klaus Schulten, Todd Martinez, Jim Phillips, Laxmikant Kale, and John Stone), cosmology (Robert Brunner), and biomedical imaging (Brad Sutton).
“Acceleration technology is a truly exciting area, and with the combined expertise of the university’s academic units and NCSA we can accelerate advancement in computational science and engineering by a full decade,” said Hwu.
Cultural Informatics, led by Michael Ross (Krannert Center for the Performing Arts). The project will apply information science and technology to the creation and comprehension of human experience, to the understanding and expression of the human condition, and to the revelation and communication of human values and meaning. This may include the creation of new aesthetic works, public engagement, formal and informal education, the performing arts, museum and other exhibition venues, and design strategies that affect society.