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Briefly: ORNL, Tennesseans respond to China's supercomputing rise
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The Chinese may have provided an incentive to U.S. policymakers to strengthen funding for the nation's supercomputing, according to Billy Stair, communications and external affairs director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

China's Tianhe-1A system recently overtook Jaguar, the Cray petascale supercomputing system at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the latest global ranking of systems' computing capacity. The ranking has been co-authored since 1993 by Jack Dongarra, a distinguished professor at the University of Tennessee, with colleagues at the University of Mannheim and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

ORNL's Stair

Now, however, concern about lost U.S. leadership is bolstering the case for funding that could put the nation back in the lead by 2012, Stair said. The China news spotlighted "the scope and consequence of China's computational strategy," Stair told VNC, and has helped "make the case for American investments a more compelling one for both [ORNL] and our legislative proponents," Stair said.

Without naming names, Stair said members of Tennessee's congressional delegation are "actively engaged in efforts to sensitize both the [Obama Administration] and their [fellow Members regarding] the scope and consequences of China’s computational strategy and to urge that the US sustain investments in high-performance computing even as we pursue budget reductions in other areas." Online sources easily reveal U.S. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, and now-retiring U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp have been among ORNL supercomputing supporters.

Although ORNL already had an "aggressive" supercomputing advocacy effort underway, Stair explained, "What we have done [since the latest ranking] is attempt to impress upon our congressional delegation and other stakeholders the scale of the Chinese commitment, the consequences of surrendering leadership to the Chinese, and the need to sustain American investments in high-performance computing.  Absent these investments, it is possible that in next year’s rankings the Chinese may actually claim the top five spots.  On the other hand, if Congress continues the funding trajectory that was planned in 2005, Oak Ridge should overtake the Chinese again in 2012 with the world’s most powerful machine."

ORNL supercomputing was strengthened beginning in 2004, Stair explained, partly as a result of earlier supercomputing gains by Japan. Germany and India are now also major players, he noted. VNC

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Tags: Billy Stair, Bob Corker, China, Congress, international, Jack Dongarra, Jaguar, Lamar Alexander, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, science, supercomputing, Tianhe-1A, University of Tennessee, Zach Wamp

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