PACI: Computer Partnerships
In March 1997, NSF launched its Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program. "This new program will enable the United States to stay at the leading edge of computational science, producing the best science and engineering in all fields," said Paul Young, former head of NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.
The program consists of the National Computational Science Alliance (the Alliance), led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The partnerships offer a breadth of vision beyond even what NSF has hoped for. They will maintain the country's lead in computational science, further the use of computers in all disciplines of research, and offer new educational opportunities for people ranging from kindergartners through Ph.D.s.
The Alliance's vision is to create a distributed environment as a prototype for a national information infrastructure that would enable the best computational research in the country. It is organized into four major groups:
Application Technologies Teams that drive technology development;
Enabling Technologies Teams that convert computer science research into usable tools and infrastructure;
Regional Partners with advanced and mid-level computing resources that help distribute the technology to sites throughout the United States; and
Education, Outreach, and Training Teams that will educate and promote the use of the technology to various sectors of society.
In addition, the leading-edge site at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign supports a variety of high-end machines and architectures enabling high-end computation for scientists and engineers across the country.
NPACI includes a national-scale metacomputing environment with diverse hardware and several high-end sites. It supports the computational needs of high-end scientists and engineers across the country via a variety of leading-edge machines and architectures at the University of California at San Diego. It also fosters the transfer of technologies and tools developed by applications and computer scientists for use by these high-end users. Another major focus includes data-intensive computing, digital libraries, and large data set manipulation across many disciplines in both engineering and the social sciences.
NSF recently announced an award to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to build a system that will operate at speeds well beyond a trillion calculations per second. The Terascale Computing System is epxected to begin operation in early 2001, when Pittsburgh will become PACI's latest leading-edge site. Through these partnerships, PACI looks to a strong future in computational science.