New High Performance Computing Center established at Berkeley Lab

November 10, 1995

By Jeffery Kahn,

Last week, DOE's Office of Energy Research announced that it had selected Berkeley Lab as the site of a new High-Performance Computing Access Center (HPC).

Director Charles Shank quickly underscored the importance of the new center to the future of research at Berkeley Lab. "We have an unprecedented opportunity to integrate science and computing to fully realize the value of high performance computing for the scientific programs of the nation," he said. "This has the potential to transform the way we do science in virtually every part of the Laboratory. It also opens the way to further expand our collaborations with the outstanding Livermore Laboratory computing activity."

On Tuesday, Shank traveled to Livermore Lab to meet with the staff of the National Energy Research Supercomputing Center (NERSC), which will be a major component of the new Center.

"The success of NERSC establishes the foundation for future strength, and will be a vital element of the new program at Berkeley," Shank said in expressing his appreciation to the NERSC staff for their accomplishments. "We will need everyone's help in the transition to meet our responsibilities to the user community and to the DOE."

Shank also announced his intention that Livermore's C. William McCurdy, director of NERSC, be named Berkeley's Associate Laboratory Director for Computing Sciences.

William McCurdy, Berkeley Lab
Associate Laboratory Director
for Computing Sciences

The HPC Center includes NERSC, the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), and the Center for Computational Science and Engineering. These components, integrated with Berkeley Lab's efforts in computer and computational science and networking, create a unique resource for Berkeley, Livermore, and other national laboratories and academic communities.

The NERSC supercomputers are used by thousands of researchers nationwide. The problems they work on include global change; materials, combustion, and molecular modeling; quantum chromodynamics, particle accelerator design; structural biology; and fusion.

Shank and McCurdy joined with Information and Computing Sciences Division Director Stu Loken and Division Deputy Sandy Merola to plan for a smooth transition of the personnel and facilities to Berkeley. "This will result in a new vision for this center, integrating NERSC, ICSD, and the energy research and academic communities," Loken said. A DOE transition team is being formed that will be chaired by DOE's John Cavallini, director of Mathematics, Information and Computational Sciences in the Office of Energy Research.

ESnet links unique DOE facilities, including the supercomputer facility, to the DOE international community. Berkeley and Livermore staff expertise in computer science will be integral to the HPC Center. Computer scientists will be responsible for the continued evolution of the "architecture" of the center, making sure that the interaction of hardware, software, and the network not only are optimal but are engineered in a way that open doors to the future.

Merola, who heads the ESnet Steering Committee, says that part of the Lab's vision for the HPC Center is to extend the notion of "national collaboratories." DOE has a number of national user facilities--accelerators, telescopes, and microscopes--that are too expensive to replicate. Through what is learned at the Center, the capability of allowing remote use of these other facilities also will be extended.

The final element in the HPC Center will be its computational and mathematical sciences program. With the Lab located midway between the UC Berkeley campus and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, it is a natural focus for computational science and computer science. Further enriching the mix are the Bay Area's computing and communication industries.