NSF awards $60 million for next-generation supercomputer
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a $60 million award to fund the largest and most powerful supercomputer the agency has ever supported to serve the nation's science and engineering (S&E) research community. The new high-performance computing (HPC) system, to be called Frontera, will be located at the University of Texas at Austin's (UT Austin) Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).
"For over three decades, NSF has been a leader in providing the computing resources our nation's researchers need to accelerate innovation," said NSF Director France Córdova. "Keeping the U.S. at the forefront of advanced computing capabilities and providing researchers across the country access to those resources are key elements in maintaining our status as a global leader in research and education. This award is an investment in the entire U.S. research ecosystem that will enable leap-ahead discoveries."
The NSF award is the first step in a multiphase process to provide researchers with a "leadership-class" computing resource that offers the most advanced capabilities for science and engineering research.
Phase One of the award will fund the acquisition and deployment of Frontera — a system with the highest scale, throughput, and data analysis capabilities ever deployed on a university campus in the United States. TACC will build the supercomputer, with the primary computing system provided by Dell EMC and powered by Intel processors.
Through its primary central processing unit (CPU), Frontera will offer more than five times greater capacity than the previous leadership-class NSF-funded computing system. In addition, Frontera's graphics processing unit (GPU) will accelerate discoveries in dynamic research areas such as deep learning and molecular dynamics. The system will also allow S&E evaluation to inform the design of a future leadership-class system.
"Supercomputers — like telescopes for astronomy or particle accelerators for physics — are essential research instruments that are needed to answer questions that can't be explored in the lab or in the field," said Dan Stanzione, TACC executive director. "Our previous systems have enabled major discoveries, from the confirmation of gravitational wave detections by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory to the development of artificial intelligence-enabled tumor detection systems. Frontera will help science and engineering advance even further."
Faculty at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) at UT Austin will lead science applications and technology, with partners from the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Utah, University of California, Davis, Ohio State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University.
Frontera is expected to be deployed and operational by next summer. Early projects using Frontera will investigate fundamental open questions in many areas of physics, ranging from the structure of elementary objects to the structure of the entire universe. They will also focus on environmental modeling, improved hurricane forecasting and the new area of multi-messenger astronomy.
From understanding the creation of the universe, to the atomic-scale exploration of biomolecular processes, Frontera will enable computer modeling and simulation as well as data analytics at unprecedented scales for all of S&E. In an era of increasing global competition in high-performance computing, systems like Frontera are key to accelerating scientific discoveries and elevating the nation's innovation edge in science and engineering.
For more information, visit the NSF award abstract page for this project, and read the memorandum to the Members of the National Science Board regarding the project.