NCSA to lead $110 million NSF project to expand nation’s cyberinfrastructure ecosystem

08.23.16 -

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $110 million, five-year award to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and 18 partner institutions to continue, and expand, the activities undertaken through the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a cornerstone of the nation's cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.

XSEDE accelerates open scientific discovery by enhancing the productivity and capability of researchers, engineers, and students, and broadening their participation in science and engineering. It does so by making advanced computational resources easier to use, integrating existing resources into new, powerful services, and building the community of users and providers.

"We are honored the NSF has selected the NCSA to steward the next phase of this project," said John Towns, Executive Director for Science and Technology at NCSA and principal investigator for XSEDE. "As the role of computational and data science in advancing scientific and engineering frontiers has grown, it has produced a significant increase in the demand for supporting infrastructure. The XSEDE 2.0 project recognizes that investment in physical infrastructure must be complemented by investment in software and human services."

The project is a central feature of NSF-supported cyberinfrastructure and aligns with the strategic objectives of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI)—a whole-of-government effort that fosters a coordinated Federal strategy in high-performance computing (HPC) research and deployment. XSEDE 2.0 aligns with NSCI, particularly by holistically expanding the capabilities and capacity of a robust and enduring national advanced computing infrastructure and contributing the learning and workforce development necessary to prepare our current and future researchers and the critical technical experts needed to support the research enterprise.

"XSEDE 2.0 will continue to expand access to NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure resources and services available to the science and engineering community across the nation," said Irene Qualters, division director for the Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (ACI) at NSF. "The nation's 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. XSEDE 2.0 is a critical human component in NSF's advanced computing infrastructure strategy, seeking to enable the broad and deep use of computational and data-intensive research to advance knowledge in all fields of study."

Cyberinfrastructure refers to the advanced instruments, computing systems, data tools, software, networks, and people that collectively improve the research productivity of the nation’s computational scientists and engineers, enabling breakthroughs not otherwise possible. Critically important to cyberinfastructure is the increasingly dynamic interplay between these resources and human developers and users. XSEDE 2.0 constitutes a virtual organization that provisions complex distributed infrastructure, support services, and technical expertise.

XSEDE was first established and led by NCSA in 2011 and the award announced today provides a continuity of services valuable to its large user community, in particular the coordination of resources and people that make the national cyberinfrastructure ecosystem so effective. NCSA is home to the XSEDE project office, diverse domain and visualization experts, and high-performance computing resources including the Blue Waters project, the most powerful supercomputer on an academic campus.

"XSEDE 2.0 will provide endless possibilities for continuing our mission to solve grand challenges through transdisciplinary convergent research and developing our nation's advanced digital workforce," said Bill Gropp, acting director of NCSA. "NCSA and the University of Illinois have been delivering groundbreaking innovation and pushing education and research collaborations into unexplored territories for 30 years. XSEDE 2.0 will allow us to continue fulfilling our land-grant university's responsibility of giving back to society."

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. Among these XSEDE-supported studies were efforts that confirmed the discovery of gravitational waves, developed high-resolution maps of the Arctic, uncovered the structure of HIV, and helped prevent injuries from car accidents.

Among its critical functions, XSEDE 2.0 will:

  • Manage and deliver a set of common and coordinated services for a portfolio of supercomputers and high-end visualization and data-analysis resources across the country to address increasingly diverse scientific and engineering challenges;
  • Manage the allocation process by which researchers access advanced computing resources, including continuing to improve and innovate this process in alignment with new research access workflows and new resources;
  • Build on the XSEDE tradition of outstanding user services, and engage a new generation of diverse computational researchers; in addition to education, training, and outreach activities, connect to campus research computing communities, to help researchers access both local and national resources;
  • Offer Extended Collaborative Support Services, which pairs XSEDE computational or software engineering experts with domain scientists to advance a project or develop a tool needed to advance research; and
  • Continue to improve and operate an integrated advanced computing infrastructure of national scale, providing "one-stop-shop" experience for users across the XSEDE-coordinated cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.

Students and researchers interested in obtaining access to advanced digital resources and support through the XSEDE 2.0 program can learn more and register at

National Science Foundation

XSEDE is supported by National Science Foundation through award ACI-1053575.