From ECP: ” Accelerating Delivery of a Capable Exascale Ecosystem”

Exascale Computing Project

Accelerating Delivery of a Capable Exascale Ecosystem

October 18, 2017
Doug Kothe

The Second Wave

You may know that the ECP has been cited numerous times by the US Department of Energy (DOE)—by Secretary Perry, in fact—as one of DOE’s highest priorities. This is not only incredibly exciting but also a tremendous responsibility for us. There are high expectations for the ECP, expectations that we should not just meet—I believe we can far exceed them. All of us involved in this project are undoubtedly believers in the value and imperative of computer and computational science and engineering, and more recently of data science—especially within an exascale ecosystem. Meeting and exceeding our goals represents a tremendous return on investment for US taxpayers and potentially for the nation’s science and technology base for decades to come. This is a career opportunity for everyone involved.

I would be remiss if I were not to thank—on behalf of all of us—Paul Messina, our inaugural ECP director. His experience and expertise have been invaluable in moving ECP through an admittedly difficult startup. The ECP is, after all, an extremely complicated endeavor. His steady hand, mentoring, and leadership, from which I benefitted first hand as the Application Development lead, have been vital to the project’s early successes. We will miss Paul but will not let him “hide”—we’ll maintain a steady line of communication with him for advice, as a sounding board, etc. Thanks again, Paul!

As we focus our research teams on years 2 and 3 of the ECP, we must collectively and quickly move into a “steady state” mode of execution, i.e., delivering impactful milestones on a regular cadence, settling into a pattern of right-sized project management processes, and moving past exploration of technology integration opportunities and into commitments for new integrated products and deliverables. We are not there yet but will be soon. Some of this challenge has involved working with our DOE sponsors to find the right balance of “projectizing” R&D while delivering tangible products and solutions on a resource-loaded schedule that can accommodate the exploratory high-risk/high-reward nature of R&D activities so important for innovation.

Changes in the ECP Leadership

We are currently implementing several changes in the ECP, something that is typical of most large projects transitioning from “startup” to “steady state.” First, some ECP positions need to be filled. ECP is fortunate to have access to some of the best scientists in the world for leadership roles, but these positions take time away from personal research interests and projects, so some ECP leaders periodically may rotate back into full-time research. Fortunately, the six DOE labs responsible for leading the ECP provide plenty of “bench strength” of potential new leaders. Next, our third focus area, Hardware Technology, is being expanded in scope and renamed Hardware and Integration. It now includes an additional focus on engagement with DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration computing facilities and integrated product delivery. More information on both topics will follow.

Looking toward the horizon, we must refine our resource-loaded schedule to ensure delivery on short-term goals, prepare for our next project review by DOE (an Independent Project Review, or IPR) in January 2018, and work more closely with US PathForward vendors and DOE HPC facilities to better understand architecture requirements and greatly improve overall software and application readiness. ECP leadership is focused on preparing for the IPR, which we must pass with flying colors. Therefore, we must collectively execute on all research milestones with a sense of urgency—in about a year, we will all know the details of the first two exascale systems!

We’ve recently spent some time refining our strategic goals to ensure a clear message for our advocates, stakeholders, and project team members. ECP’s principal goals are threefold, and they align directly with our focus areas, as follows:

Applications are the foundational element of the ECP and the vehicle for delivery of results from the exascale systems enabled by the ECP. Each application addresses an exascale challenge problem—a problem of strategic importance and national interest that is intractable without at least 50 times the computational power of today’s systems.
Software Technologies are the underlying technologies on which applications are built and are essential for application performance, portability, integrity, and resilience. Software technologies span low-level system software to high-level application development environments, including infrastructure for large-scale data science and an expanded and vertically integrated software stack with advanced mathematical libraries and frameworks, extreme-scale programming environments, tools, and visualization libraries.
Hardware and Integration points to key ECP-enabled partnerships between US vendors and the ECP (and community-wide) application and software developers to develop a new generation of commodity computing components. This partnership must ensure at least two diverse and viable exascale computing technology pathways for the nation to meet identified mission needs.
The expected ECP outcome is the accelerated delivery of a capable exascale computing ecosystem to provide breakthrough solutions addressing our most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security. Capable implies a wide range of applications able to effectively use the systems developed through the ECP, thereby ensuring that both science and security needs will be addressed because the system is affordable, usable, and useful. Exascale, of course, refers to the ability to perform >1018 operations per second, and ecosystem implies not just more powerful systems, but rather all methods and tools needed for effective use of ECP-enabled exascale systems to be acquired by DOE labs.

To close, I’m very excited and honored to be working with the most talented computer and computational scientists in the world as we collectively pursue an incredibly important and compelling national mission. I think taking the journey will be just as fun as arriving at our destination, and to get there we will need everyone’s support, talent, and hard work. Please contact me personally if you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns.

In the meantime, as former University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt said, “Keep on keeping on.”


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The Exascale Computing Project (ECP) was established with the goals of maximizing the benefits of high-performance computing (HPC) for the United States and accelerating the development of a capable exascale computing ecosystem.

Exascale refers to computing systems at least 50 times faster than the nation’s most powerful supercomputers in use today.

The ECP is a collaborative effort of two U.S. Department of Energy organizations – the Office of Science (DOE-SC) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

ECP is chartered with accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing ecosystem to provide breakthrough modeling and simulation solutions to address the most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security.

This role goes far beyond the limited scope of a physical computing system. ECP’s work encompasses the development of an entire exascale ecosystem: applications, system software, hardware technologies and architectures, along with critical workforce development.