National Center for Supercomputing Applications

Senior Operating Systems Specialist David Carver adjusts a wire to Ranger, the largest supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center. Ranger will aid in the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment project’s goal to connect research scientists nationwide.

Photo Credit: Emilia Harris | Daily Texan Staff

UT is participating in a new nationwide project to connect research scientists with the supercomputers and other digital resources that make much of their work possible.

For the next five years the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, called XSEDE, will integrate advanced computational resources and services housed at institutions nationwide, making them easier for scientists to use, said Faith Singer-Villalobos, a spokeswoman for UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center.

The National Science Foundation funded the $121 million cyber-infrastructure, which includes the hardware, software, tools and services coordinated in this extensive network, said Singer-Villalobos.

“The digital services provide scientists nationwide with seamless integration to the high-performance computing and data resources,” she said.

Singer-Villalobos said researchers must submit a proposal for free allocation of resources, which will be reviewed by peers on the basis of their science and the impact it could have on society.

The National Science Foundation’s goal in funding the project is to enable scientific discovery by enhancing researcher productivity, said Barry Schneider, a program director in the Office of Cyberinfrastructure at the foundation, in a Texas Advanced Computing Center press release.

The project is run by multiple partnered institutions, including UT, and led by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Trish Barker, a spokeswoman at the center.

Barker said each site will contribute something different to the project, such as supercomputers, training, support, visualization expertise, data analysis expertise and software maintenance.

“The goal is to provide researchers all across the country, in many different fields, with supercomputers they can use, with data repositories they can access, with networking they can use to move things around from place to place and with tools for collaboration,” she said.

The new network will bring in new researchers and collaboration by solving incompatibility issues and eliminating technical barriers that prevent more effective communication, Barker said.

The project will expand on its predecessor, TeraGrid, which was also funded by the National Science Foundation and lasted for almost a decade, she said.

Jay Boisseau, director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center, said in an email to The Daily Texan that XSEDE has more resources and interfaces beyond high-end computing to facilitate a greater variety of science.

“[The program] will have a more balanced portfolio of digital services — massive data intensive computing systems and high throughput computing systems, different kinds of data storage resources, and more ‘science gateways,’” Boisseau said, referring to simplified user interfaces.

He said the move away from TeraGrid did not interrupt the approximately 10,000 users with active allocations, and those users gained access to the new expanded resources.

Boisseau said additional resources and simplified interfaces will attract scientists from a more diverse set of disciplines, allowing for multidisciplinary advances in science.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center leads user support activities for the project, which help researchers learn to use the new advanced technologies, he said.

“We provide high-performance computing systems, an advanced scientific visualization system and a massive data archival system for the national open science community,” Boisseau said.

He said the center participated in TeraGrid and has an even more involved role in XSEDE, since it has the resources and staff to support the projects.

“We want to help the U.S. maintain scientific leadership while enabling science as a global endeavor,” Boisseau said.

The new program will also focus on education and outreach to help deal with a declining number of people entering the scientific fields, said Samuel Moore, the education and outreach training program coordinator at the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

By participating in research programs, students ranging from middle-schoolers to undergraduates gain analytical skills that benefit them in any future career, and especially those related to engineering, he said.

“We’re giving [students] these experiences and these options so they’ll be able to make an informed choice,” Moore said.

Moore said national and economic security rests on this technology and the ever-decreasing number of people who know how to use and maintain it.