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XSEDE 2.0: The NSF doubles down

Speed read
  • TeraGrid successor receives affirmation from NSF — $110 million, five year renewal award for XSEDE.
  • XSEDE is partner to some of the biggest scientific discoveries in recent years.
  • Socio-technical ecosystem is the secret to XSEDE successes.

When the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), took over the TeraGrid project back in 2011, it had a lot to live up to. Over 10,000 scientists had benefited from TeraGrid resources since 2001, and increasing numbers of researchers were beginning to see the value of high-performance computing (HPC).

Five years later, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has doubled down on its investment, affirming the outstanding success XSEDE has shown in carrying on the TeraGrid legacy. In a major expansion of the national cyberinfrastructure, the NSF recently announced they were awarding a $110 million, five-year grant to XSEDE to continue enlarging access to advanced cyberinfrastructure resources.<strong>Off the grid.</strong> From 2001 to 2011, TeraGrid provided HPC access for over 10,000 scientists. XSEDE took up the TeraGrid mission in 2011 and was recently awarded a $110 million, 5-year extension from the NSF.

Dubbed ‘XSEDE 2.0,’ this renewal means scientists and engineers are ensured continuity of HPC services. More than just big, fast computers, however, the award means researchers can still rely on XSEDE to coordinate the resources and people that make the national cyberinfrastructure ecosystem so effective.

With the renewal, XSEDE remains a central feature of national publically supported cyberinfrastructure and aligns with the strategic objectives of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI).

XSEDE 2.0’s role in NSCI will holistically expand the capabilities and capacity of a robust and enduring national advanced computing infrastructure. XSEDE 2.0 will also supply the learning and workforce development necessary to prepare our current and future researchers and the critical technical experts needed to support the research enterprise. 

(See our feature about NSCI’s 1st anniversary.)

“The US discovery and innovation enterprise requires a dynamic and highly interoperable ecosystem, anticipating and responding to new instruments, new computing capabilities, new research communities and new expertise,” says Irene Qualters, division director for the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI) at NSF.  “XSEDE 2.0 is a critical human component in NSF’s advanced computing infrastructure strategy, and will enable the broad and deep use of computational and data-intensive research to advance knowledge in all fields of study.”

Broadening the reach

TeraGrid launched the national HPC effort with four institutions; XSEDE has now expanded this work to 18 partner institutions across the nation, led by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

Last year, XSEDE provided computational and data services to more than 6,000 scientists, engineers and students, and supported more than 20,000 users through its web portal. Over the past four years, users have acknowledged support by XSEDE and its related computational resources in roughly 14,000 publications.

<strong>Partners in science. </strong> The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime with the help of millions of computing hours on XSEDE resources. Courtesy NASA.

Some of the biggest recent scientific discoveries may not have come to pass without XSEDE. For instance, Albert Einstein’s postulation of gravitational waves would have to wait 100 years for confirmation by the LIGO consortium. To prove Einstein right, LIGO racked up millions of computing hours on XSEDE-managed resources such as Comet at the San Diego Supercomputing Center (SDSC) and Stampede at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

Without XSEDE, Wall Street ultra-fast computer trading would be running without congressional oversight. But finance professors at UIUC brought XSEDE computing to bear to reveal a lack of transparency in trades under 100 shares, so called ‘odd-lot’ trades not ordinarily reported on the consolidated tape.

Thanks to XSEDE-managed research using SDSC’s Gordon supercomputer and Blacklight at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), researchers could see how these odd-lot trades skewed the financial markets. Alerted to the danger, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) revisited its odd-lot policies.

(See our article about how XSEDE supercomputers keep an eye on Wall Street.)

Human-powered supercomputers

A broad swath of users relies on XSEDE-managed supercomputers to make discoveries today. Scientists, engineers, social scientists, and digital humanists use these resources daily. But they aren’t left on their own to figure out how to make these computers hum. XSEDE is right alongside, providing the technical expertise needed so these experts can focus on their research.

<strong>Gordon goes to Wall St.</strong> The Gordon supercomputer at SDSC was one of the XSEDE supercomputers used by finance professors to call attention to the dangers associated with high-frequency, odd-lot trades. The unique research project prompted the regulatory body FINRA to revisit its policy. Courtesy SDSC.

“XSEDE’s success as a socio-technical ecosystem is the result of innovative collaboration and commitment from partner institutions, campus champions, and users across the US,” says John Towns, XSEDE principal investigator and executive director for Science and Technology at NCSA. “We make cyberinfrastructure accessible and easier to use in order to make impactful scientific discoveries and develop our nation's digital workforce.”

SDSC associate director Nancy Wilkins-Diehr and PSC co-scientific director Ralph Roskies are co-principal investigators for XSEDE and co-directors of XSEDE’s Extended Collaborative Support Service (ECSS). ECSS provides help to researchers in code and workflow optimization, porting to new system architectures, and the use of accelerators such as GPUs for detailed visualizations.

“ECSS brings a very diverse set of expertise to the table as the cyberinfrastructure needs of the research community and offerings of XSEDE Service Providers continue to expand,” says Wilkins-Diehr. “Reflecting the importance of this function, the ECSS budget is nearly one third that of the XSEDE program.”

US advanced computing is in good hands with XSEDE 2.0, and the NSF reinvestment shows how valuable XSEDE is to the national scientific agenda.

If you are interested in learning more about how your research can benefit from advanced digital resources and support via the XSEDE 2.0 program, visit the XSEDE website today.

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